Souvenir Keepsakes: Windmill Programmes


A selection of Windmill Theatre Revudeville programmes dated between 1942-1958

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The Windmill programmes are fascinating but brief documents that tell us a considerable amount about the Windmill experience.

Firstly the advertisements are always a good indicator for who the establishment thought their audience was, or who the audience aspired to be. Not surprisingly, as the theatre was licensed, a considerable portion of the adverts are for alcohol served at the bar (‘Just say Booth’s: the finest gin,’ ‘Ask for Gordon’s at the bar,’  ‘Meet Mr Brandyman – at the bars. Make friends with Martell.’) Likewise, confectionery & cakes are also advertised as being available (‘Patsy’s choice: Huntley & Palmers cake. Served in this theatre.’)

In terms of representation, other than glamourous head and shoulder shots of the female performers in the show, cartoon caricatures of smartly dressed men of a certain class seem to prevail here. The Martell brandy advert in particular is interesting, showing a well dressed gentleman, smart suit, waistcoat, pocket handkerchief, cigarette and a monocle, but with a brandy glass for a head. Elsewhere a gentleman in dinner jacket and bow tie dashes excitedly to the bar (‘Good Show! They’ve got S.L.B ales at the bar!’) and perhaps most interestingly, an older gentleman, with dinner jacket and bow tie and brilliantined hair is encouraged ‘at the theatre bar take the necessary Schweppes.’ Here it is overtly suggested that he will purchase a particular beverage, but the illustration reveals a play on the ‘necessary [steps].’ The gentleman has taken the precaution of bringing a pair of binoculars with him, with which to enjoy a less fettered view of the ladies on stage.

Despite binoculars and opera glasses being banned from the Windmill auditorium, elsewhere further reference to their use appears in an advert, printed in miniscule print:

‘If you cannot read this without opera glasses you need a Jenners Golden Ale. Even if you can manage to read it you’d still be wise to have a Jenners at the interval. Just ask at the bar.’

Otherwise adverts selling photographs of the performers appear in each programme (‘size 10x 8 at 5’6 each (including tax). Postcards 1′ each. Please place order at Box Office.’), revealing a lucrative sideline in potentially titillative ancillary materials other than programmes, such as pin-ups. (For further discussion of the Windmill Girls as pin-ups see catalogue entry ‘Blonde & Brunette (1941): The camera Club, Art Nudes & The Windmill’)

The other point of interest here in the 1950s examples of the programme, is the ‘Candid Criticisms’ page on the rear of the programme. Here audience members are invited to tell the establishment ‘what YOUR general opinion of each turn in REVUDEVILLE…’ was, as well as ‘your confidential opinion as to which artistes you enjoyed the most.’

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