Aurora Borealis (1932)

‘Aurora Borealis’ (1932) was directed by Moultrie R. Kelsall (who went on to be a Scottish TV and Radio actor / producer of the 40s and 50s).

Unlike the previous ‘Northern Lights’ revues, the show moved from HMT and was instead staged at the Beach Pavilion, Aberdeen.

In a 1986 interview, cast member Bronwen Jones recalled:

“There were auditions for the show in my time. It had been Northern Lights for some years. I never saw Northern Lights. The first year there was a sort of mini Northern Lights called Aurora Borealis which was in the Beach Pavilion not in the Theatre. I don’t remember why, whether it was financial or whether there was lack of talent. I wasn’t in that. I went on Concert Party that year.”
from a 1986 interview with Bronwen J. Jones (fl.1914-1986), (M.A. 1935)

Director Moultrie R. Kelsall himself shed some light on the reasons for the change of venue in a 1961 memoir :

“It’s twenty-nine years since I produced the Aberdeen University Charities Show “Aurora Borealis” in the Beach Pavilion, and it’s a sobering thought that most of you in this 1961 Show weren’t even born in that far-off April of 1932. Not that I’m looking for sobering thoughts – they accumulate unbidden with the years.

That show in 1932 was the first break in a succession of productions in H.M. Theatre whose future was then so very doubtful that it was impossible to engage it when the Show was being planned, and with the change in theatre the old name was dropped too. “Northern Lights” in previous years had a reputation far beyond Aberdeen. In Glasgow, where we presented an annual helping of “College Pudding” (with such home-spun ditties as “Why try to cure a herring after the poor thing’s dead”) on the restricted stage of the Lyric Theatre, we had envied the full-stage lavishness of Aberdeen’s “Northern Lights”. So when, in 1932, the production had to be scaled down to the comparatively shallow stage of the Beach Pavilion, it seemed politic to change the name.

Whether “Aurora Borealis” fulfilled the programme’s hope that it would be ‘no unworthy successor to Northern Lights 1931’ probably no one now remembers. All I remember us that I thoroughly enjoyed my first contact with Aberdeen students, and found a lot of talent, some of which achieved a wider audience in broadcasts from the old B.B.C. studios in Belmont Street. But the catchphrase that I remember, thinking of that Show, wasn’t in the book at all – it was Charlie Gordon’s (he was on the staff at the Beach Pavilion) “Affa loons the mill quines”. Is it true that you don’t have loons and quines in Aberdeen any longer – just guys-n-dolls?

Anyway, “Aurora Borealis” was an aberration: the following year your antecedents were back in H.M. Theatre as you are now. And I’ve no doubt that the latest Show will maintain the reputation that “Northern Lights” achieved in those far-off days before you were born.”

Moultrie R. Kelsall, 1961

(This memoir first appeared in the 1961 Student Show souvenir programme)