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News > Heritage > Agamemnon 1949

Agamemnon 1949

Pictures from the College Archive
25 Apr 2024

It is over 20 years since the College last performed Agamemnon in Greeker in 2003.

On the recent passing of Bradfieldian Brian Prevost, we unearthed a lovely collection of photographs in an envelope in the Archive addressed to the Stage Director and member of the SCR Philip Stibbe.

They are a wonderful record of the lavish costumes and staging of the performance at the time and include many Bradfieldians in key roles including Brian playing Cassandra.

Agamemnon 1949 was the first play for 12 years during the Second World War period - austerity forbidding such activities. For the first time the Greek Play was performed in the evening as well as the afternoon. For the first time the BBC took an interest in it putting it in the Television News and a special item in a news programme. For the first time the music was also consciously modern and the Chorus instead of singing the Choruses spoke them in choral speech.

These innovations had their critics, but praise and congratulation followed the performances including for Cecil Bellamy who was the Producer and Philip Stibbe who was Stage Director. The total number of students performing in the play was a cast of 80 and this does not include all those involved in the orchestra, stage setting designed by OB Christopher Ede, costume and design. These included: John Tyrie (G 44-49) as the Watchman, John Ackroyd (F 45-50) as Clytaemnestra, Francis Moore (F 45-49) as the Messenger, Harry Joynt (D 44-49) as Agamemnon, Brian Prevost (C 45-50) as Cassandra, Jeremy Lever (F 46-51) as Aegisthus and David Dearle (F 44-49) as Leader of the Chorus. The Herald was played by John Nott (B 46-50) and the Trumpeter by Andrew Petrie (B 44-49). Other performers included Palace Attendants, Palace Guards, Soldiers and Slaves, every one playing an important part in this fabulous post-war performance.

The five performances originally advertised were sold out within 48 hours of the opening of the Play Office and an extra afternoon performance on the Friday was added. The BBC announced that more than 9000 saw the Play, however the College thought the number closer to 8500, including the Dress Rehearsal.

The Play Notes record that all the chief characters, except the Watchman, had learned Greek, but none of them were reading Classics. That for one performance there were 63 motor coaches parked up on Hill 2 and that the audience was so absorbed that during much of one performance, a mouse ran happily in and out amongst them, unnoticed!

The Bradfield Chronicle reported at the time "It is no exaggeration to say that the revival of the Bradfield Greek Play is an event of national importance" and we think that on this occasion this actually was the case.



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