Saturday, 7 December 2013

Raymond Sheppard and The Station Repertory Theatre

I killed the Count

Some coincidences are too strange to believe. At the same time that Frank Setchfield was selling some posters on eBay, I became aware of two posters claiming to be by Raymond Sheppard on the Flickr set of Manuel Palomino Arjona. I wrote to the latter but got no reply. However Frank told me the following:

Hi Norman
These posters came from a book dealer friend who acquired them in an auction-they can be traced to author Carol Brooke who was married to actor Herbert Ramskill. Herbert Ramskill acted/produced the plays I would guess as part of the war effort but not necessarily as part of ENSA. I could not trace the ''station theatre'' but believe it to be RAF as I had about 8 posters only one was signed by Raymond Sheppard but it would be fairly safe to assume at least some of the rest were his work. It was frustrating to try and discover the exact provenance but there was a clue on one poster which was just simple lettering and includes the wording 'by kind permission of Group Capt J A Elliot'
Regards Frank

Now, I suspect, like Frank, that some of the following have Sheppard influences and the one that is signed is a surprise to me as it has no attributes that I find familiar. I have commented below

We know approximately that Raymond Sheppard was re-assigned from "Wireless Operator" training to "Aircrafthand General Duties" in December 1942 due to his health problems so it is not unlikely he used his artistic talents in a supportive role such as this. He was posted to Yatesbury around this time, but we're not certain when. If only we knew where he was stationed precisely at this time!

As you'll see below Sheppard produced more than one poster for some productions and Christine Sheppard kindly sent me this alternative version of "I killed the Count"

I killed the Count - in pastel

The poster for "White Cargo" has the look of Sheppard's work and the figure fits in with - what we later, in 1942, -  got to know as Hedy Lamarr's character in the film of the same name.  When rolled up we see "HQ Cookhouse" inscribed in pencil

8th Nov is a Sunday in 1942
(S?) HQ Cookhouse

Same dates on this poster as above

The second play "He walked in her sleep" has several representations in poster form just like the above. The play looked to be by Norman Cannon and created in 1929.  - and we can clearly see multiple versions of "coming soon" announcements as well as dated posters. From the days corresponding with dates I surmise that the first play here is 1942 and the later ones mentioned here are 1943. One would think with paper rationing this wouldn't happen, but as Frank described in his eBay sale these are "original paint work on plane paper measuring approx 15" x 20" - on black sugar paper"

"Coming soon"
"Coming soon"
"Coming soon"

Monday January 18  was in 1943

See above
Next is the poster (illustrated above - the only one where a Sheppard signature is clear) of "I killed the Count" a 1937 play in which "The dilemma isn't that the Detective is suffering from a lack of witnesses. In fact, four different people come forth to confess to the killing - each of them with plenty of motive and opportunity."

Lastly we can see "The Shining Hour" a 1934 play the setting of which is apparently "a living room in an Elizabethan farmhouse in Yorkshire".  This art looks very similar in execution to Sheppard's artwork in some of his children's books.

The Shining Hour

The last poster that Frank kindly shared with me is this wordy billboard, and the dates again  appear to match 1943. Here we can see the Ramskill name mentioned by Frank previously. Early viewers of the Emmerdale soap might remember him as Wally Lumm. A programme guide appears here listing his credits which in my opinion appears a bit scant as I feel he was one of those actors I remember from my childhood appearing all over the place. Carol Brooke was the pseudonym of Patricia Robinson, or Patricia Ramskill who was widowed in 1977 and died herself earlier this year, the author of many romance novels. This poster advertises the 1935 play "While parents sleep".

If we are right in thinking Sheppard was posted to 76th Squadron RAF in June 1943 (who were in RAF Holme-on-Spalding Moor in June 1943), it's likely he missed this last production.

Sunday July 4 = 1943

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