July 1945: Mr A. Parry Gunn Dead – Producer of Noted Pageants
An article on page four of The Glasgow Herald, on Monday the 30th of July, 1945, reads:
“MR A. PARRY GUNN DEAD
Producer of Noted Pageants
Mr A. Parry Gunn, 6 Belhaven Terrace, Glasgow, who died on Friday, was a pioneer in Britain
in the years between the two great wars of a large-scale spectacular type of theatrical production,
recalling the Greek and Elizabethan stages and reflecting the influence of Continental producers
such as Reinhardt and Adolphe Appia.
He proved that Greek and Shakespearean drama could be adequately performed within a
building of the circus type. His production of ‘Antigone’ in Hengler’s Circus, Glasgow, in 1922,
even achieved popularity; over 12,000 people attending during its week run.
Parry Gunn was born in 1886 in Cheshire, his father being Scots, his mother English. He was
trained for the legal profession, but an early interest in the theatre drew him towards the stage.
After a few years’ experience as an actor he took up the work of production, and gained experience
in all kinds of drama and light opera. He studied the history of theatrical art and the work of
contemporary continental producers, and it was the University of Aberdeen which gave him his
first chance to try out his theories.
In 1919 he produced the ‘Antigone’ of Sophocles for that University, employing over 200 players. In
1920 and 1921 he produced the ‘Oresteia’ of Aeschylus and the ‘Oedipus Rex’ of Sophocles also for
the University of Aberdeen. In 1922 the University of Glasgow sponsored a production of the ‘Antigone,’
and this Gunn staged in Hengler’s Circus – the first production of a Greek tragedy in such a place or on
such a large scale in Britain.
During the next two years he successfully produced ‘Julius Caesar’ and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’
in the same place. These were also the first of their kind in Britain. Large numbers of players were
engaged and effective use was made of mass movements.
In the course of his career Gunn produced many pageants, in particular the Glasgow Historical Pageant
at Garscube in 1928, with over 6000 performers, and the Pageant Play in the Empire Exhibition at
Glasgow in 1938. He produced other large-scale open-air historical pageants also in the Isle of Man
and in Aberdeen.
Parry Gunn had also a wide experience in teaching. He taught elocution in the Glasgow Boys’ High School,
and conducted classes on Drama and Production in the University of Glasgow for the Joint Committee on
Mr Parry Gunn is survived by his wife.”
The notice of Archibald Parry Gunn’s death is on the front page of the Herald, on the 30th. The service was at the Crematorium, Western
Necropolis, on Tuesday the 31st of July.