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Young England – the worst play ever?

Found - a 1935 theatre programme for Young England, a play by Walter Reynolds often cited as the worst play ever. Nevertheless it was a great success and some people saw it 20 times. We covered it pretty thoroughly at a posting at bibliophile site Bookride. We had found a copy of the book and catalogued it thus:

Young England is a now uncommon book  and of interest to theatre collectors and connoisseurs of the odd and the zany. Reynolds appears to have been a sort of Amanda Ros of the theatre--so very bad that he is good. Young England (Walter Reynolds) Gollancz, London 1935.  8vo. pp 288. Frontis portrait, 5 plates. A play in two periods. This play had an unlikely success in the 1930s rather similar to the fictitious 'Springtime for Hitler.' It was so appallingly bad that audiences came along in their droves for over 300 nights to shout amusing remarks and generally revel in its ghastliness. The frontis portrait of the Reverend Walter Reynolds shows a stern Scottish type who apparently would walk up and down the aisles of the theatre during performances telling people to be quiet. Quite scarce.'

What emerges from contemporary reviews is that the actors in this terrible play co-operated with the audience and adapted lines and action according to shouts from the audience, some of whom were fuelled by cocktails which were so popular in the 1930s…In one performance the villain, when led away by the police, pauses to say "Foiled!" He was almost licked one night when the crowd shouted not only "Foiled!" but "Baffled!" "Beaten!" "Frustrated!" "Outwitted!" "Trapped!" "Flummoxed!" He waited until the wits were through, then hissed: "Stymied!"

The programme includes "…a short letter from the author of Young England to his old friends, the theatre-going public."

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