Glenn Chandler’s latest Edinburgh Festival hit The Good Scout now transfers to London’s Above the Stag Theatre, and Amanda Bailey is once again relishing being the only woman in the cast and reprising her acclaimed performance as “the epitome of an English mum”. Time to get booking!
The Good Scout, written and directed by Glenn Chandler, had its Edinburgh previews at Above the Stag, London’s home of LGBTQ theatre, in July and now returns for a limited four-week season from 9 October to 2 November 2019.
In the 1930s, Lord Baden-Powell and Joachim von Ribbentrop, Hitler’s London ambassador, instigated exchange visits between British boy scouts and Hitler Youth, in the expectation that they would influence one another.
In Bassington, England, the local troop play host to a cycling party of Hitlerjugend – but are the German boys cyclists or ‘spyclists’? For Will and Jacob, two Rover Scouts on the cusp of manhood, it is a visit that will change their lives forever. As war looms, a heart-wrenching, darkly humorous drama about espionage, a scout’s honour and forbidden love unfolds.
The Good Scout is the first-ever play based on this astonishing historical record. Original cast members Amanda Bailey, Charlie Mackay, Lewis Allcock, Clemente Lohr and Simon Stache reprise their roles from Edinburgh and are joined by Daniel Cornish (taking over from Clement Charles).
Talking to… Amanda Bailey
Amanda Bailey is a “riot to watch onstage” (Broadway Baby) and “the epitome of an English mum” (British Theatre Guide) as Rose Parrish in The Good Scout, which she reprises at Above the Stag Theatre. Bailey’s other recent credits include Judy! (originally Through the Mill) at London Theatre Workshop, Southwark Playhouse and at the West End’s Arts Theatre, as well as Antigone, Blood Wedding, An Inspector Calls, Earnest, Medici Medicine, Mother Goose, Fear and Games and The Cagebirds.
What did you think when you first read the script?
I was already intrigued by the story when my agent first sent me the scenes to learn for my audition, so I couldn’t wait to read the whole thing. And I loved it – I wasn’t expecting it to have as many contrasting moments, ranging from comedy to drama, with some really touching moments along the way. To be honest, I wasn’t too sure about the ‘gang show’ scenes when I first read them, but they really made so much more sense and came alive off the page when we started performing them in rehearsals. They’re so funny! The Munich scene is now my favourite because the audience really isn’t expecting it.
Had you heard of the ‘spyclists’ before?
I was aware that Lord Baden Powell had been invited to meet Hitler, and that some exchanges were organised between Scouts and Hitler Youth, but I hadn’t heard of the term ‘spyclists’. I’m always straight to Google when I hear about something new, so I started reading up about it, and was amazed at how brazen the whole operation was. It had happened in other countries too, like Belgium and the Netherlands, before they were invaded by Germany. It’s also been interesting talking to family members who lived through the war; they had no idea it had happened!
Tell us about your character.
I was instantly drawn to my character, Rose, who is really warm, maternal and funny… quite a departure from most of the characters I tend to play! Rose is the mother of Will, one of the Rover Scouts playing host to the Hitler Youth. She was widowed in the First World War, and has brought up her son on her own. She has also taken in her son’s friend Jacob, who has lost both parents.
She’s very insightful, suspicious of the Germans to begin with because of her experiences in the last war, and says some hilarious things, but gets away with them because of her humanity and truth. Or maybe it’s just because she drinks a lot of sherry! Either way, she really grounds the whole play, and is there to subtly challenge the different opinions held by other characters.
What’s it like being the only woman in the cast?
It’s great. Glenn has written such a strong and inspiring character in Rose, that it’s lovely to be the only one for a change! Plus, I always tend to take the ‘motherly’ role in whatever cast I’m a part of, and The Good Scout is no exception. That includes baking all of the cakes mentioned in the script and taking them to rehearsals… I think it’s just a treacle tart I have to make now! But actually, most of the time, I don’t even think about being the only female as I get on with all the guys in different ways, whether it’s dancing around with Simon, beating Charlie at cards, or shocking everyone with some of my off-the-cuff comments!
You had a big success in Edinburgh. What was your personal highlight?
Edinburgh was amazing. I hadn’t performed there since 2014 and it was lovely to go back to such a brilliant festival. There were loads of wonderful moments, but I think the real highlight has to be winning the ScotsGay Award for Best New Writing and Theatre – we were all so proud and pleased for Glenn, as he’s written a fantastic play, and for it to be recognised in that way was very special. And the standing ovations and praise from the audience members were very touching.
Some of the other more memorable moments for us were when there was a technical problem with the sound for one show, and the poor boys had to sit through the cinema scene without any of the sound cues. Knowing that their cue to leave was his reaction to Hitler speaking, Clemente suddenly stood up in the silence and said, “Want to see something funny?” And he then made the Nazi salute whilst saying, “Sieg Heil!” which was the cue for the next scene to begin! Jade, our stage manager was incredible, too, and was trying to find as many cues as she could on iTunes and play them live to give us something to work with… what a star!
We also had an audience member shout abuse at Lewis and Clement whilst they were on stage, and then turn up backstage after being ejected from the theatre… luckily Clemente and Simon (who play the Hitler Youth) had just made their final exit, and were able to get the man out onto the balcony, which was luckily just by the costume rail, and ‘suggest’ to him that he stay there until the end of the show.
But our favourite has to be when Clemente forgot to take on a copy of Mein Kampf to give to Baden Powell at the start of the show. On realising he was empty-handed, he told Baden Powell that Hitler had a gift for him, but that the delivery was late… we were all cracking up backstage because it sounded like it was coming from Amazon!
There’s also a point in the play when Mr Dory says to Will, “You know nothing!” and, backstage, without fail, Charlie and I would turn to each and mouth “Jon Snow” after he said it… if you haven’t seen Game of Thrones then that won’t mean anything!
How do you feel about returning to the show now?
I am really excited about returning to The Good Scout so soon after Edinburgh, and not only because I can still remember most of my lines! I love playing Rose – hearing the audience laugh at some of her comments, and knowing that my character is able to connect with people in such a meaningful way has made her very special for me.
Returning to a lovely theatre like Above The Stag, where we did our previews, will be amazing too. Glenn has made a few changes to the script, and added in some extra bits for this next run, plus there’s a new actor, Daniel Cornish, playing my son Will, so that will definitely make things different.
Hitler Youth Leader : “I have brought you a present from my mother. It is a fruit cake,”
Mrs Parrish : “Bit like Hitler then. He’s a fruit cake!” From#TheGoodScout @abovethestag Tkts from 9 Oct – 2 Nov@MandTweets @clemente_lohr @TerriPaddock @LewisAllcock @DanielCornish96 pic.twitter.com/LUrwSKqOKw
— Glenn Chandler (@boteproductions) September 25, 2019
Do you have a favourite line in the play?
Oh, there are so many! Glenn recently tweeted the “fruit cake” one, which has always been one of my favourites, so instead I’ll go for “Many a young soldier got stuck in her treacle tart!” as it comes really early in the play, and I love hearing the audience gasp at Rose’s cheekiness.
Why should audiences see The Good Scout?
Glenn has created some wonderful characters. As the play unfolds, you get to see them interacting and developing, and not always in the way you expect. It’s comedic and dramatic in equal measure, and appeals to a really wide demographic. Added to that, you also get to learn something about a little-known piece of British history in an entertaining and thoughtful way. Plus there’s a kiss between a Scout and a Hitler Youth – we think that’s a first for British theatre – so what more could you ask for?!
Anything else you’d like to add?
Rose is a really strong female character in a play that has much of its focus on male relationships, and that’s refreshing in an LGBT play. I had people coming up to me after the Edinburgh shows saying that I either reminded them of their mum, or that they wished their mum had been more like Rose, and that meant so much to hear. I’m really grateful to have been given the chance to play such an engaging character, and the whole cast is so excited to be doing the show again – we can’t wait for you to see it!
Following its Edinburgh run, The Good Scout runs from 9 October to 2 November 2019, 72 Albert Embankment, Lambeth, London SE1 7TP, with performances Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7pm and Sundays at 5.30pm. Tickets are priced £20. Click here to purchase!