The Last Day of November (1984)

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Poster by Michael Gilbert

by John Yorath

Directed by Bruce Murray

Performances: Sun 2nd - Sat 8th December 1984, Bell Theatre


This play was initially written by John Yorath to be performed by children...

It told the story of the Crystal Palace, from its planning to the holding of the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in 1854, its building, relocation to Sydenham Hill and its final destruction by fire on the last day of November 1936.

This was a restaged version with a slightly different cast and set.




....Bruce Murray, who is about to return to his native New Zealand, goes out with a blaze in his production for the South London Theatre Centre of local author John Yorath's "The Last Day of November". The sub-title is "Crystal Palace - the end of an Era"

A round dozen performers at the Bell Theatre play out John Yorath's version of events. Great names stalk his pages: designer Paxton, railway chairman Lang, engineer Brunel. It is an absorbing tale that justifies its two-hour treatment, though I think it was a great mistake to present it without an interval, since the saga falls almost pat into two parts.

Some of the chosen music is worrying, too. The acquisition of a new site is greeted by, of all things, Smetna's "Ma Vlast" as if the Crystal Palace were being moved to Bohemia.

But the choice of the closing bars of Shostakovitch's fifth symphony to see out the fire seems as appropriate as anything else except, possibly, Siegfried's Funeral March.

The cast performs with great spirit, with especially commendable work from the central trio: John Lyne as Paxton, Jack Edwards as the forceful Lang and Haydn Leaker as the dissident director Farquar.

Nikki Hogg is a gracefully dignified homegrown Queen Victoria, and Dennis Packham, one of the two survivors from the production of two years ago, is the egregious Col. Sibthorp, who did his best to scupper the whole operation.

Donald Madgwick, January 1985 SCENE, reprinted from the Croydon Advertiser with permission.


Reminiscences and Anecdotes

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See Also

The Last Day Of November (1983)

The orginal staging of this play was also taken to The Questors Theatre



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