Six Decades of Neckies

Nov 15 2019 | By More

Gang Show Goes 60!

This coming Tuesday, 19 November 2019, the Edinburgh Gang Show will open its sixtieth production, having first hit the King’s stage on Monday November 14 1960.

To celebrate six decades of Edinburgh Gang Shows, here are former gang show performers recalling what the show has meant – and continues to mean – to them.

Thanks to Scott Walker for his invaluable help in compiling these memories and sourcing the images.

The Finale from the 1960s

The 1960s

Bruce Henderson Past cast member now Make Up Supervisor

In early 1962, aged eleven, I moved with my family to Edinburgh. I transferred to the 13th Portobello Scouts. I remember towards the end of a meeting the leader reading out an intimation about Gang Show, of which I knew nothing. His words were: “If anyone thinks they have something to offer.”

I assumed a ready-made act was required so although already interested in theatre – I’d seen a number of pantomimes – it didn’t seem to be for me. That November I volunteered to sell programmes at one performance. Being allowed to watch the show, in the Lyceum, I found out what it was actually all about.

I couldn’t wait for next year’s “casting call”.

I turned up at BP House in civies, everyone else was in uniform! However I was welcomed and ‘joined the gang’. I sang and I danced, sometimes painfully, a Toy Soldier number where we fell in a line on top of each other, under the choreography of Betty Brandon.

Bruce Henderson, Mike Walker and Jackie Cotter. Pics: Gang Show

I really enjoyed having make-up applied by members of EPT. The smell of the greasepaint! I did some years later manage to have the practice of body makeup stopped. It was basically cold cocoa applied using ‘car wash’ sponges to any part of the body which was seen. Tough if you were in trunks for a beach scene.

I appeared onstage in two shows. I met Ralph Reader when he awarded Edinburgh the ‘Red Necker’. The next few years I worked backstage because of parental pressure for school exams! Then in 1967 girls joined! I met a young woman in the cast whom I’d met at a previous scout/guide event at Bonaly. A friendship developed. So I rejoined the cast for the 1968 show.

Supervising make-up for the show provides an opportunity to return something to Edinburgh Gang Show. I meet, and work with friends for one week in the year.

One of the pleasures of having been associated with EGS for so long is seeing many of the young cast members from way-back, now running the show. A show which introduced me to so much.

Rock and Roll – a scene from the 1970s

The 1970s

Mike Walker Past cast member now Marketing and Front of House

My involvement in Gang Show started in 1971 when I auditioned for the cast and was accepted. I had never appeared in a show before so everything was new to me. It was hard work and after twelve weeks of rehearsals show time arrived. The King’s Theatre was amazing and I loved every minute of performing for an audience.

I was now completely hooked and couldn’t wait to do more shows. I had made many friends and would continue to do so over the years. I did all the 70s shows and when my time came to leave the stage I continued to word backstage. This year is my 49th show and Gang Show it’s still as fresh to me as it was all those years ago.

The Greeks Had a Word For It Too – a scene from the 1980s

The 1980s

“Dame Jackie” Cotter Past cast member now Musical Assistant

My first Gang Show was the Silver Jubilee Show in 1984, when I found myself roped in as a rehearsal pianist and Assistant to Steve Edwards. At that time, Bill Matthew was the Musical Director. However, he was not present at many rehearsals, but came along to conduct during show week, so we were tasked to teach all the songs. Bill hand wrote all the music scores, which were a work of art.

I continued in that role until 1988, mainly spending show week in the orchestra pit, with occasional appearances on stage, and then joined the cast where I enjoyed a few years of great fun, getting some memorable solos, as well as some comedy roles in sketches. In 1996, I reverted back to Chorus Mistress.

Still around today helping out with song rehearsals, but more importantly, enjoying the banter with some great friends, old and new with lasting friendships forged being part of the Gang.

This summer, I was honoured to take an Edinburgh Gang Show neckerchief to Baden Powell’s last home in Nyeri, Kenya.

The Opening – a scene from the 1990s

The 1990s

Lesley Boyd Past cast member now proud wife and mum

I very nearly didn’t attend the Gang Show auditions in 1996 having not been successful the year before. How different my life would have been!

Gang Show memories are different from all others; receiving my red neckie, my first opening, standing on the steps singing the solo finale number, numerous London trips and above all friendship!

Gang Show is so much more than a show, it has given me skills for life, confidence, lifelong friendships, a husband and now a son with his very own red neckie making his own memories!

It may be a different Gang on the stage but the buzz is the same, the legacy lives on!

I Wanna Be a Producer – a scene from the 2000s

The 2000s

Mhairi Cameron Past cast member now Wardrobe Team

Having joined Edinburgh Gang Show in 2008 as a young Guide, it gave me the opportunity to perform on stage and meet a whole new group of people – some who have since become some of my best friends.

And it’s these friendships that have brought me back to help with the show since I left the cast in 2014. Being a part of Edinburgh Gang Show is like having a second family full of fun and friendship.

It’s these friends and all the laughs along the way that make Gang Show something we truly do Have A Lot To Be Thankful For!

A Secret Chord – a scene from the current decade

The 1980s – and current decade

Fenella Webster Past cast member and Main Gang Admin Team

I first joined Edinburgh Gang Show in 1983 as part of the Registration Team, I wasn’t good enough for the cast that year! However, the following year I must have improved as I became a cast member.

I have so many great memories but there are a couple of special ones. One opening night the curtain going up and there in the middle of the front row of the stalls was my dad – he hadn’t told me he was coming to see the Show!

A trip down to London to the Eltham Gang Show when we did a few touristy things in London before going to see the show in the evening including a boat trip down the Thames where we sat and sang many Gang Show songs including Sail Your Dreamboat – the boat wasn’t exactly a dreamboat but what a fantastic weekend we had!

In 2015 I came to see Edinburgh Gang Show for the first time in many years and thought about how great it would be to be involved again. I then became part of the Admin Team in 2016, back where I started, but far too old to be in the cast now!

I have renewed old friendships and made so many new ones too. Gang Show really is like a big family. Being more involved backstage has made me realise what a huge amount of work by a huge team of volunteers is put into making sure the cast appear on stage looking and sounding as good as they possibly can.

Edinburgh Gang Show 2019
King’s Theatre 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ. Phone booking: 0131 529 6000.
Tue 19 to Sat 23 November 2019
Evenings 7pm; Matinee Sat 2.15pm
Tickets and details:  Book here.

Lesley Boyd, Mhairi Cameron and Fenella Webster. Pics: Gang Show


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