That’s What You Think (1937)

‘That’s What You Think’ was directed by Adrian Stephen.

There is a 1935 dance number of the same name (composed by Al Cohn, Kay Werner & Sue Werner, performed by Will Osborne & his Orchestra, amongst others) which may or may not have been used in this show.

The following piece is by Allan Frazer, who appears to have been the writer of either script or music for this production (or another near it, speaking of ’20 years ago’ in 1957). It stands as a fascinating insight into the way in which scripts were written for the Student Show in the 30s – in many ways a lot of the same anxieties and practises continue to this day!

“No one who has a hand in writing the words or music of a student Show can ever quite forget it.

One passes through a number of quite well defined stages. The first is one of brash confidence which springs from innocence, ignorance or a combination of both. The Show at this stage is some months ahead. But as January creeps into February the atmosphere becomes distinctly more uneasy – one wakens up with vague apprehensions which quickly focus themselves on the third week in April. With a certain urgent nastiness the producer insists on a greater output of script and hints that the absence of entertaining lines is not usually considered an advantage. Orchestrators demand more music. Lyrics will scan or rhyme but decline simultaneously to do both. Class exams begin to impinge and one discovers that one is as incompetent a lawyer or scientist as one clearly is a playwright. One collogues with one’s collaborator and discovers that he suffers the same palpitative night terrors and apprehensions of certain disaster.

It may be, of course, that this grim pathological progression towards disintegration has been studied by earnest Ph.D.’s and that there is now available some specific cure for the appalling spiritual trauma which the writers of every student Show necessarily undergo. But twenty years ago one learned the hard way. The desperate humiliations of the closing days before the first night had to be undergone – days when the plot seemed a meaningless succession of improbabilities, the dialogue wooden and dull, the music a series of tinkling plagiarisms; and the wit – ah, the wit… one held one’s head in shame….

And yet – and yet. Aberdeen audiences are generous and never more so than to student shows and student authors and composers. And nothing so quickly dissipates the weeks of misery and strain than the warm kindly gust of laughter with which Aberdeen audiences take student shows – every student show – to their heart. For student shows do not exist in isolation but stand on the shoulders of their predecessors and an Aberdeen audience takes up this April where it left off a year ago.

But now the orchestra is in the pit and the safety curtain is coming down. Any minute now …

Et ego in Arcadia vixi”

Allan Frazer, 1957

(This memoir first appeared in the 1957 Student Show souvenir programme)