The Play’s The Thing

Through the Ages – The Play’s the Thing
Australia – 1920’s

Also Known as
The Jazz Age, The Roaring Twenties

What’s Hot
Glitter and glamour. Dancing the Charleston in Flapper garb. Staying out all night at amazing parties, preferably thrown in dazzling surroundings such as wealthy Long Island, beachfront homes of charming bootleggers. Jazz music sounding out optimistically over long summer evenings.

Moralists despair that all this decadence will lead to society breaking down. They are all in a fluster over insubstantial women’s outfits and rising hemlines. Oxford Bag trousers are all the rage for the men. These trousers are absurdly large, and could quite easily be mistaken for a 3-man tent.

Dances of the time
Instructions for dancing the Charleston:
Try tying your knees together tightly. Hop around the floor a lot waving your hands and arms about like you are a chicken.

The dance gets a lot of flack from oldies; some of who even say that it hinders childbirth prospects. In 1925, Variety magazine reported that on one particular night, the vibrations of the Charleston dances were so violent that it caused the Pickwick Club to collapse, killing 50 people.

In 1926, the Charleston fades in popularity and is replaced by one called “The Black Bottom ” – from the sounds of it quite a spectacle and equally controversial.

The Flapper look
Bobbed hair, Cloche hat, baggy dresses exposing legs and arms (shock horror!), lots of makeup, silk blouses, cheeks rouged. Try to appear outgoing, carefree and sophisticated.
Wasting diseases such as Tuberculosis and Syphilis became romantically associated with sensitivity, genius and beauty. All the young, trend setting ladies try to look as pale, gaunt and sick as possible. If someone comes up to you and asks, ” I say – I was wondering if you have a terminal disease?” – you should take this as the greatest of complements.

Celebrities of the Time
Stars of the Silver Screen are household names. Crowds continue to flock in order to see Charlie Chaplin and his slapstick craziness.

Al Jolson stars in the Jazz Singer – the first talkie film. The film is mostly silent apart from just a handful of words about half way through the picture. The stress on the screenplay writer must have been immense.

Hollywood seemed to be a mixture of brooding good looking types such as Greta Garbo, Rudolf Valentino (drama roles); and freaky funny types -Laurel and Hardy, Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle (comedy roles).

Other popular pastimes
Mah Jong, Psychology.

Jazz is the music that is taking the world by storm. Again there is a bit of a moral protest but the Jazz wave can’t be stopped – Duke Ellington, Jelly Roll Morton, Bessie Smith.

Louis Armstrong impresses audiences with his trumpet playing and distinctive voice. In the early days, sympathetic audiences offered him cough lozenges in order to treat what they concluded was a severe case of Laryngitis.

Drinks of the Time
If its alcoholic and its America – it’s illegal. Prohibition was introduced in 1919.
Illicit whiskey production is big business, big rackets being led by gangsters such as Al Capone. The standard of some of the produce is marginal. Alcohol content is invariable high. It is said that one standard glass of “Henry’s home made hooch” was enough to power Charles Lindenberg’s solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927.

Food of the Time
“Yes we have no bananas, we have no bananas today”

Everybody who’s anybody in the 20’s reads F Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby, ’ which paints a very cool picture of the Jazz age but also warns of its trappings

3 difficult classics are released to the world:

TS Eliot’s poem, The Waste Land is proclaimed a masterpiece, though everybody admits to not understanding it.

James Joyce great novel Ulysses is similar, only longer

And, perhaps most challenging…

AA Milne’s House at Pooh Corner…it’s always really hard to do Eyeore’s accent

Traffic problems of the time
All of a sudden there are a lot of cars around but no rules. Its anarchy out on those streets with unqualified and inexperienced drivers doing what they please when they please – driving on the wrong side of the road, accelerating for corners and pedestrians, U turns all over the shot and reversing into oncoming traffic.

This, of course, necessitates the introduction and invention of such things as traffic lights, traffic signs and one way streets which, although very sensible, is widely regarded as spoiling all of the fun.