OR … HOW ON EARTH DID WE GET AWAY WITH IT..?
It must have been in the Spring Term of 1954 when a few budding thespians, including Dave Tovey, Alan Goodwin and myself were moved to write a play ‘The Victory of De Cossac’, a swashbuckling adventure, (in retrospect owing a great deal to Rafael Sabatini and Alexander Dumas), based on the 17th century kingdom of Maltovia, somewhere in Central Europe. It lasted about 40 minutes, every one containing at least one thrill and infused with noble and moving dialogue … or so it seemed at the time. We rehearsed it for a month – the brain was more retentive in those days – acquired various props from airing cupboards, garden sheds and lofts, and arrived at the momentous decision that the world (or at least Dynevor) deserved to experience this splendid contribution to English literature.
Thus, it was that one Thursday, and Friday, we budding giants of the stage (Dave, Alan, James Barr, Barry Harrison and myself) absconded from classes and literally took over the top gym, nailed a pair of Mam’s front parlour curtains to a beam, and set up shop. Various of us were detailed to go around classes every bell interval and invite teachers and pupils alike to witness a definitive performance of this amazing new drama. So, at ¾ hour intervals for two whole days, classes and masters, obediently and without question, filed up to the top gym and partook of this unique experience. It included Barry Harrison, cutlass in mouth, swinging on to the stage via one of Budgie’s ropes, and Dave, as Count De Boulard, (slain with aplomb by me, the Black Terror), dying in pools of tomato ketchup. This was all stirring and unbelievably moving stuff … we could see Stratford beckoning.
Looking back, Dave and I are both mesmerised by and aghast at our sheer cheek! We sought no-ones’ permission for this venture – not Glan Powell’s, not “Scruff” Griffiths, not one of our esteemed English masters, not even Emlyn Evans, our form-master! No permission was sought for taking over the gym, banging nails into Budgie’s beams, summoning classes, absconding from classes ourselves, or … anything! Why was it that literally no one objected, we wonder? Was it because our excellent masters were lost in admiration for our literary and dramatic efforts? Was it because they believed someone else had given permission? Was it because they were totally taken aback at the sheer effrontery of it? Was it because their consciences were moved at the burst of popular enthusiasm for Anglo-Welsh literature following Dylan Thomas’ recent death? Or was it because they had been nobbled by Ossie, Bryn Cox and John Bennett who perceived future biographers writing of the support and encouragement they, as English masters, had given to famous ex-Dynevor actors and playwrights? We shall probably never know, but it is fairly certain that in these days of Ofsted and the National Curriculum we would probably have been put down like some recalcitrant Soviet artists in Stalin’s time.
“The Black Terror”, as we all called the play for some reason, sadly did not enter into the annuals of Anglo-Welsh literature. Dave and I cannot even find the manuscript (though we did find the poster recently, see below). But I do have a letter from Cliff Mitchelmore at the BBC thanking me (“Mr. Davies”, egad!) for sending the script and offering to do a BBC film for him on the Hugh Weldon series ‘All Your Own’. He said he’d be in touch – but he never did. What a loss to English literature!