The late Dr Colin Robert Anderson, pictured above in his younger student days, passed away in 2014. He was the director and prime mover of the early Newcastle University College Revues. The Newcastle University College, established in 1951, was the precursor of the University of Newcastle.
Thanks to the efforts of Robert Eather, Ken Longworth, Moira Gordon, Marilla North and others, we have been able to gather a number of the original recordings and related programmes and reviews of these theatrical performances. It has taken eight years to get to this point, since Ken Longworth first contacted us in 2008 about having this material digitised.
Thanks to Moira Gordon, (wife of the late Professor Barry Gordon, a producer for the first production) who tracked down the first ever University College Revue booklet for “Abandon Hope” we now know the original intention of the creators.
“THIS IS the first University Revue that has been presented by Newcastle University College. Since its inception in 1951, the College, through the determined efforts of its student body, has introduced and developed those activities which so soon became a traditional part of University Life.
Notable amongst these are the student newspaper, “Opus”, which was first published in 1954, the annual day of “celebration”, Autonomy Day, July 1st, on which day students hit town, generally with a procession – so far we’ve attacked the Transport Department (1956) and the rock’n’roll craze (1957). These celebrations culminate in the Cabaret on the same evening.
Now Revue is joining this list of “traditions”. The aim of a University Revue is to rend(er) limb from limb politicians and professors, fascists and physicists, liberals and communists – in fact any one and anything that has of late been before the public eye and is worthy or unworthy enough to deserve satirizing. Revue also presents a number of items which rely solely on the talent of the actor or singer for their success. For thee acts, we need talent and have been lucky enough to find in our undergraduate ranks singers and dancers of note.
We of the Newcastle University College hope that you will enjoy our Revue and join in the spirit of the evening – one of gay banter and light-hearted fun. If you see someone vaguely resembling yourself on stage, be flattered; if you don’t feel relieved. If you don’t understand some of our more subtle jokes, don’t worry about it – it’ll hit you in about a fortnight’s time.”
However, there are gaps in the archives, and so we are very interested in hearing from past performers, collaborators, family and fans who may hold material relating to them.
Below you can see what we do have, if you see gaps that can be filled, or errors that need correction, or memories that can be added please let us know.
Cheers and please enjoy.
Gionni Di Gravio
Programme: Abandon Hope Revue Programme (2.7MB PDF File) (Thankyou Moira Gordon)
Recording: Abandon Hope! – Newcastle University Revue 1958
Digital Copy Courtesy of Robert Eather (93.8 MB Mp3 File)
Recording: Abandon Hope! Newcastle University Revue 1958
Digital Copy Courtesy of Ken Longworth
Track 01 Opening Abandon Hope! (2.9MB MP3 FILE)
Track 02 A Technical Barbarian (4.1MB MP3 FILE)
Track 03 Cinder Sue (11.6MB MP3 FILE)
Track 04 Newcastle Opera (9.1MB MP3 FILE)
Track 05 Charleston (2.3MB MP3 FILE)
Track 06 Mrs Dalloway Went Thataway (9.7MB MP3 FILE)
Track 07 Liberace (6.1MB MP3 FILE)
Track 08 Dragnet (7.1MB MP3 FILE)
Track 09 The Russian Ballet (3.3MB MP3 FILE)
THE THIRD DEGREE
Recording: The Third Degree – NUC Revue (115.4 MB Mp3 File)
Digital Copy Courtesy of Robert Eather
Recording: The Third Degree
Digital Copy Courtesy of Ken Longworth
Track 01 Opening Chorus (1.9MB MP3 FILE)
Track 02 Don’t Take Your Cars To Town (3.7MB MP3 FILE)
Track 03 Sleeping Beauty (12.1 MB MP3 FILE)
Track 04 Thus Spake Our Bob (8MB MP3 FILE)
Track 05 On The Beach (9.7 MB MP3 FILE)
Track 06 Beatnik Blues (4.6 MB MP3 FILE)
Track 07 Doin’ What Comes Nacherley (3.1 MB MP3 FILE)
Track 08 Face The Mess (15.5 MB Mp3 FILE)
Track 09 Moments Best Forgotten (3.6 MB MP3 FILE)
Track 10 Cha Cha (3.5 MB MP3 FILE)
Track 11 Finale (26 MB MP3 FILE)
Track 12 My Fair Bookie (81.8 MB MP3 FILE)
Track 13 My Fair Bookie (73.6Mb MP3 FILE)
Programme: Brianwash Revue Programme (1.5MB PDF File)
Recording: None Available
Programme: Faux Pas! Revue Programme (4.2MB PDF File)
Recording: Faux Pas! – NUC Revue (2 discs – 4 sides)
Faux Pas! Side 1 (54.1 MB MP3 File)
Faux Pas! Side 2 (51.5 MB MP3 File)
Faux Pas! Side 3 (52.6 MB MP3 File)
Faux Pas! Side 4 (50.4 MB MP3 File)
Programme: 8+2 Revue Programme (2.9MB PDF File)
Recording: 8+2 – NUC Revue (1 discs – 2 sides)
8+2 Side 1 (101.7 MB MP3 File)
8+2 Side 2 (20.2 MB MP3 File)
Programme: In Time-Out Revue Programme (3.3MB PDF File)
Recording: In Time-Out – NUC Revue (2 discs – 4 sides)
In Time-Out Sides 1 and 2 (124.4 MB MP3 File)
In Time-Out Sides 3 and 4 (58.7 MB MP3 File)
Programme: Blue Pencil Revue Programme (3.7MB PDF File)
Recording: None Available
Programme: Right NOW! Revue Programme (834KB PDF File)
Recording: None Available
Back To The Wall
Ken Longworth’s Reminiscences on the Newcastle College Revues
“I have recordings of songs and sketches from the first two Newcastle University College revues, Abandon Hope (1958) and The Third Degree (1959).
The Abandon Hope recording is a 12″ LP, while The Third Degree includes a 12″ LP and a 45rpm EP. The last has a long sketch called My Fair Bookie, which uses the music from My Fair Lady’s songs for a story about bookmakers. Margaret McDermott, later Margaret Bowman, was the female lead in that and some other sketches of the first two years.
The late Vic Rooney is among the other performers on the recordings, which were made by Vista Records, a Cooks Hill based recording studio.
I was the first person on stage in the first revue, Abandon Hope, playing the title character in a sketch called A Technical Barbarian. I was cast as a technical college student at Tighes Hill who reluctantly got caught up in the Uni revue and was pushed unwillingly on stage at the start of the show each night. I had to be literally pushed on stage every performance because it was a bit terrifying for a 17-year-old to be alone in front of a packed audience of 900 at the original Roxy Theatre in Hamilton who expected to be laughing from the first seconds after the overture. I suspect I was cast as the tech student because I was the youngest cast member of the revue, the only first-year student who went along to the auditions.
I wrote my first revue sketch for the second revue but unfortunately it wasn’t among those recorded. It had a lot of visual comedy, as well as funny lines (virtually all lifted from Tennessee Williams’s play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, where they were all serious – it’s amazing what a difference a change of context can make!).
I was involved in the third revue in 1960 but, from memory, there was no recording. Everybody got a bit too ambitious in the third revue and some of the sketches, including two I wrote and directed, were yanked late in the piece because they weren’t working, with a melodrama replacing them in the middle act. I still think the sketches were among the best I wrote but I didn’t have control over the casting and some of the performers didn’t get the style that was needed.
I also wrote sketches for the fourth revue in 1961, the first staged in the then new auditorium/student dining room on the Tighes Hill campus, but I wasn’t too involved in the physical production and I’m unaware of a recording being made (although I do recall my voice being used in a recording done at the venue of a Dragnet send-up – it was a radio-style play and I think the voices were used offstage) . If there was one, I’d love a copy. My two sketches (neither listed in the program under my real name but under a nickname and a pseudonym) were among the show’s biggest hits and it would be great to hear them.”
Ken Longworth (March 2008)
Ken Longworth’s Notes on the Digitisation of Abandon Hope! and The Third Degree Vinyl Recordings
“The vinyl recordings made of the first two Newcastle University College revues (1958, 1959) are at last ready for me to hand over to the Newcastle University archives.
Adrian Gregg, a Newcastle theatre participant who is also involved in restoration of films and recordings, has cleaned the vinyl disks and transferred the recordings to compact disks.
There are three vinyl recordings: a 12-inch 33rpm LP of sketches and songs from the first revue, Abandon Hope, and a 12-inch LP and 45rpm EP featuring the second revue, The Third Degree.
The Abandon Hope recording was made after the revue, in a hall in Hamilton, when someone decided that a recording should be made of some of the production’s highlights. The Third Degree recordings are live, made during a performance, and, while they include the audience reaction, the sketches and songs vary in volume and clarity.
Adrian warned me that current styluses used for playback of vinyl recordings are different to those from the period when the recordings were made, so that playback with contemporary equipment might not be as good as with use of older turntables and styluses.
He made me several CD copies of the recordings, so I’ll also give the archives one for each revue. (And he photographed the labels on the vinyl disks and used them for the CD case cover inlays). Adrian also made long-life masters on disks that are supposed to have a 300-year life. I’ll hang on to those, in case problems develop with the other disks.
There are track listings on the labels and he’s also put them in the back of the CD case inlays. However, the track listings for The Third Degree do not include the EP sketch, My Fair Bookie. As a result, there are two unlisted tracks on that CD.
Abandon Hope plays for about 37 minutes, while The Third Degree is about 62 minutes.
Unfortunately, there was no accompanying info with the recordings. I should have the revue programs in a box somewhere, so when I get the time I’ll look for them.
Playing the CDs, I recognised the voices of Vic Rooney and Maggie McDermott (now Bowman, after whom the Bowman building is named.) Boxhead O’Shea, who was also a first-grade rugby player and later a coach and who is still around Newcastle according to a Herald story earlier this year (I think his name was John but he was never called anything other than Boxhead), (ED.- “Boxhead” was Brian O’Shea, thanks Moira Gordon) plays Liberace in a sung sketch. I was also horrified/fascinated to find myself in a sketch that I’d forgotten about.
There are references to lecturers – Cyril Renwick, or characters based on him, featured in both revues – and there is a sketch called Face the Mess, which was based on the TV interview show Meet the Press, which includes a breathy guest called Norma Sykes. I eventually remembered that Norma Sykes was the real name of Sabrina, a chesty British celebrity.
A song in the 1958 revue, Don’t Take Your Cars To Town, has a reference to parking meters in Newcastle that suggests 1958 was the year they were introduced.
A lot of the people and references to events are, as you’d expect, of their time, so some sort of research could be needed into the recording contents to make them truly valuable archive records (no pun intended).
I can deliver the recordings and CDs when you are ready for them. It would be good if the ABC could be persuaded to do something on them, and if Margaret Bowman could be induced to talk to an ABC presenter
about the revues.”
Barry Gordon’s Observations on the student ‘Revue’ in Newcastle
(From Barry Gordon’s “The Gordons of Merewether”, selected by Moira Gordon)
In late 1993, Professor Barry Gordon set about writing a family history, commencing with his graduation in 1956 and his move to Newcastle to join the staff of Newcastle University College. At the time of his death, he had carried this project up to the early 1980s. Barry scoured a wide range of sources to build up a chronology of events and happenings, using his skills built up working with historical material. He commenced with mining his own old diaries and those kept by Moira, photographs, letters, newspaper clippings, calendar charts used to plan activities while of overseas trips, the memorabilia kept from these travels, expenditure records, taxation returns, school reports, trophies, magazines and papers which had been kept, publications, unpublished papers. Then, as he faced the task of clearing out his room at the University of Newcastle at the beginning of 1994, and thereby sorting through papers and correspondence files built up over thirty-five years, this had meshed well with Barry’s project, and much material relating to his professional and university associations emanated from this. From this history of “The Gordons of Merewether”, Moira Gordon has selected Barry’s observations about the early occasions of student ‘Revue’ in Newcastle.
In Autumn  Barry [Gordon] resumed as captain-coach of the reserve grade rugby side, and a group of students approached him with the idea of mounting a university revue. He agreed to co-direct the production together with one of the students, John Hartigan. In this undertaking his prior involvement with Sydney University Revue was an important factor. Scripts for sketches were contributed by two brilliant Sydney satirists, Philip Grahame (known as “Chester”) and John Cummings. Robert Hughes, who later became art critic for Time magazine and a high-profile author and presenter of TV series on art and culture, came to Newcastle to paint the back drops. Barry wrote scripts and song lyrics, co-compered the show, and appeared in some of the sketches. Moira volunteered her services backstage as call-girl. Intensive rehearsals for the revue began in May. (p.11)
The Revue “Abandon Hope” opened for a four-night season at the old and cavernous Roxy Theatre, Beaumont Street, Hamilton in early July. It was a cause celebre with full houses after opening night. Newcastle had not seen a production of its kind, in which fast-paced, topical satire of the “intimate revue” variety predominated. The cast and stage crew were drawn mainly from members of the rugby club and the university’s ladies hockey team. Their exuberant style was irresistible. Stand-out performers were Margaret McDermott (subsequently, Bowman), Brian O’Shea, Colin Anderson and Vic Rooney, all amateurs at the time. The last two went on to professional careers involving theatre and TV. (pp. 11-12).
The first university revue had been so successful, and the participants had enjoyed the experience so much, that a second was staged [in 1959]. Barry wrote scripts and lyrics, and directed some of the sketches. “The Third Degree” opened at the Roxy in late July. An even better production than its predecessor, it played to enthusiastic audiences and congratulatory reviews. The proceedings were recorded live and issued on L.P. for private circulation. (p.15).
The third University revue “Brainwash”, opened at the Roxy in July . Barry was not as heavily involved as in the past, but contributed lyrics and a sketch, “Gunn with the Bourbon on Beat Hunter Street” which mingled scenes and characters from two private-eye TV series with Newcastle personalities and events. At the end of the Winter, rugby coaching concluded with a premiership win, and Barry wrote a review of the first six years of the University Rugby Club for Opus, the College newspaper. (p.19)
He [Barry] wrote on a variety of subjects during the year , including an article on jazz for the University arts magazine Nimrod, a piece on hire purchase for the Melbourne-based Catholic Worker, and with Moira, a paper on marriage for a conference of the Sydney Newman Society. Another paper was “Kingship, Priesthood and Prophecy in the Lord of the Rings”, a lengthy analysis of the J.R.R. Tolkien classic which was yet to become widely celebrated. There were also some long lyrics for the University revue. (p.24).
These interviews were recorded by Ken Longworth on the 4 April 2009 at a reunion held at the Central Coast of students of Newcastle University College.