Entertaining the Anzacs: Performances for Australian and New Zealand Troops on Leave in London, 1916–1919

  • Ailsa Grant Ferguson


In 1916, the year of the first Anzac Day commemorating the Gallipoli campaign, Shakespeare’s Tercentenary and the introduction of the infamous Entertainment Tax, the YMCA built two Anzac ‘Huts’ in London: the Shakespeare Hut for New Zealanders and the Aldwych for Australians, providing shelter and ‘suitable’ entertainment for servicemen on brief leave from the Front. The Shakespeare Hut was built to commemorate the playwright’s Tercentenary on land purchased originally for the erection of a new National Theatre (at that time planned to be named the Shakespeare Memorial National Theatre). In its own purpose-built performance space it would provide hundreds of entertainments for its Anzac audiences. The Hut provided 90,000 beds per year and provided all those under its roof with free, inhouse entertainments, partly to keep them off the streets. While the Aldwych Hut lacked the performance space and extraordinary commemorative function of the Shakespeare, it too provided a specific Australian ‘home’ for Anzacs, adjacent, as it was, to the site of the Australian High Commission, in the process of construction. By 1917, the Australian YMCA had also taken over the nearby Aldwych Theatre, bringing the Aldwych Hut in line with the Shakespeare Hut in its inextricable identification with theatre and performance.


National Theatre Concert Hall English Heritage Male Audience Production Style 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 5.
    Maurice Willson Disher, The Last Romantic: the Authorised Biography of Martin Harvey (London: Hutchinson, 1948), 252.Google Scholar
  2. 17.
    Francis Oswald Bennett, A Canterbury Tale:the Autobiography of Dr. Francis Bennett (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980), 78.Google Scholar
  3. 18.
    Richard Madelaine, ‘Substantial Pageants: Oscar Asche, latter-day picto-rialism and Australian audiences, 1909–22’, in O Brave New World: Two Centuries of Shakespeare on the Australian Stage, eds. John Golder and Richard Madelaine (Sydney: Currency Press, 2001), 103–20 (110–11).Google Scholar
  4. 19.
    Fabia Drake, Blind Fortune (London: Kimber, 1978), 36–7.Google Scholar
  5. 22.
    Katharine Cockin, Edith Craig (1869–1947): Dramatic Lives (London: Cassell, 1998), 93.Google Scholar
  6. 23.
    Thomas Burke, London in my Time (London/New York: Loring & Mussey, 1934), 120.Google Scholar
  7. 25.
    Jason Wilson, Soldiers of Song: the Dumbells and other Canadian concert parties of the First World War (Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2012), 122.Google Scholar
  8. 28.
    See Ailsa Grant Ferguson ‘Lady Forbes-Robertson’s war work: Gertrude Elliott and the Shakespeare Hut performances, 1916–1919’, in Women Making Shakespeare, eds. Gordon McMullan, Lena Cowen Orlin and Virginia Mason Vaughan (London: Bloomsbury, 2014), 233–42.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Ailsa Grant Ferguson 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ailsa Grant Ferguson

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations