About Una Brandon-Jonesís Unity Theatre Writing


Think feminist song lyrics and the chances are youíll most likely think 1970s. You probably wouldnít think of the early 1940s. However the spirit of womenís lib (although they didnít call it that then) was certainly present in a number of songs performed by Londonís Unity Theatre during the second world war. With Unityís main song writing team, the G&S Of The Left, Berkeley Fase and Geoffrey Parsons, having been called up, a gap was left, to be filled: on the music front by Michael Percival, Arnold Clayton, and Benny Norris and on the lyrics side by Barnet ďDoggieĒ Wolf, Michael Percival, Randall Swingler, Roger Woddis, and Una Brandon-Jones. The latter (who after the war became a professional actress), was already one of the leading lights of Londonís Unity Theatre, made her performing debut in the legendary 1938 production of Babes In The Wood (opposite Alfie Bass), and during the second world war appeared in a number of Unity Theatreís revues. But in June 1942 she came to the fore as the lyricist of what was to become a much performed song titled Women In Industry, about the wartime factory girls. A run-in with Bill Owen, in 1943, over the lack of woman in Unity Theatreís revue troupe, mobile group, led to Una Brandon-Jones setting up at Unity Theatre an all-female revue troupe, The Amazons; for which she wrote various material of a feminist nature including some wonderful lyrics for their theme song Itís A Girl, her lyric-writing contributions to their shows also included a song titled The Mother-In-Law.


Ms Brandon-Jonesís theatrical writing may have started with the war, but it certainly didnít end there. In 1953, at Unity Theatre, after co-directing (with Anne Dyson) Leonard Irwinís The Wages Of Eve (auditions for which brought some new talent Unity Theatre, including Lionel Bart) the previous year, and appearing in a revue Turn It Up, she joined forces with John Gold and Roger Woddis to write the book for an agit prop version of Cinderella, which had songs by Lionel Bart and Jack Grossman, and as a result tends to have gone down in history as ďLionel Bartís agit prop version of CinderellaĒ.It has been said that one of Jack Grossmanís tunes from Cinderella and also one from Turn It Up found their way into Oliver!.


The above information was mostly gleaned from the book: The Story of Unity Theatre. By Colin Chambers, first published in 1989 by Lawrence and Wishart Ltd, ISBN 0 85315 587 9



Some Links To Archives About Unity Theatre


According to Colin Chambersí book on Unity Theatre, an amount of material from the Unity Theatre (London) shows, including a number of Ms Brandon-Jonesís lyrics, are in The British Theatre Collection, which according the archives hub is the most complete collection of Unity Theatre material, and can be accessed via The Theatre Museum: http://www.theatremuseum.org.uk/default.php


 The Theatre Museum in Londonís Covent Garden (had a section about Unity Theatre) which closed on 7 January 2007, there is a campaign to Save The Theatre Museum Ėin London, see: http://www.theatremuseumguardians.org/


The Unity Theatre Trust is also involvedwith the history of the London theatre-group that originated it, information about their archive (and the video-documentary they produced about Unity Theatre) can be found on: http://www.unitytheatre.org.uk/home1.htm

††††††††††† Coincidentally, the Unity Theatre Trust has also been involved in supporting The Lost Musicals Charitable Trust: http://www.lostmusicals.org/


Some Unity Theatre (London) material (including at least one of Ms Brandon-Jonesís lyrics) can also be found in The University Of Southern Illinois library: http://www.lib.siu.edu/spcol/inventory/SC029.html


New Statesman review of the video-film about the theatre group: http://www.newstatesman.com/200204080054


Wikipedia entry for Unity Theatre: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unity_Theatre%2C_London


Further details about Londonís Unity Theatre, and other related subjects can be found at Archives Hub: http://www.archiveshub.ac.uk/tour/reunity.shtml



I Value The Arts Campaign Ė seeks to safeguard, promote and develop the arts as a key element of our national culture. It is a campaign to empower people who value the arts to think about the arts services they believe to be important to their local community. It is supported by a wide variety of people and organisations (including arts trade unions such as Equity, and, BECTU). For more information see: http://www.ivaluethearts.org.uk/ (no real connection, but is seems appropriate to mention a modern arts campaign here, esepcially one supported by the unions).




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