Entertaining the Anzacs: Performances for Australian and New Zealand Troops on Leave in London, 1916–1919
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.
KeywordsNational Theatre Concert Hall English Heritage Male Audience Production Style
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