‘Outward Bound’ by The Little Theatre at Changi POW Camp (October 1943)

Outward BoundOutward Bound - Cast

Entertainment too had its place in the life of Changi.

‘The Australians in Selarang raised a Concert Party of almost professional standard, and it became such a booster of morale that for a long time its members were kept back whenever the Japanese called for more workers. One of its comedians, Harry Smith, had a catch phrase, ‘You’ll never get off the Island’, which became almost the watchword of the prisoners throughout the captivity. While the Australians concentrated on variety shows, the British using the old RA cinema, known as the ‘Playhouse’, put on straight plays in the main, achieving likewise a very high quality. One of the Japanese interpreters was most helpful in providing stage properties; gowns, make-up and so on, and some of the Japanese guards were regularly to be found in the audience. Having propped their .303 British rifles against the walls of the theatre, they would sit down and listen: then they would stand to attention while ‘The King’ was played. On the first night they attended, they were so taken in by the excellence of the make-up of the ‘girls’ that as soon as the performance was over they all dashed around to the stage door to meet them!

Source: http://ukmamsoba.org/changi.htm

“The Australian Concert Party had developed from a rather polished purveyor of vaudeville corn into a group who already gave signs of becoming the backbone of Changi entertainment – which entrainment was to be a key factor in maintaining our high morale in the ensuing years and for the preservation of which our command (to whom I have not so far been excessively kind) must be awarded the fullest possible praise. Whatever demands the Japanese made of workers the Concert Party was always preserved intact. No better investment than this was ever made on our behalf. There were few men who were captured on Singapore in 1942 and who survived till 1945 who do not now remember, and will not always remember, the skill of John Wood, the songs of Slim de Gray and Ray Tullipan, the harmony of Geoghegan and Woods and that plaintive cry of our most melancholy comic, Harry Smith or ‘Happy Harry’: ‘You’ll never get off the Island’ for complete hilarity to be restored.”
Source: The Naked Island by Russell Braddon; 1955 edition Pan Books Ltd, Pg178

 ‘Despite overcrowding, one area was set aside for the concert party. The concert parties, both British and Australian, had been one of the main sources not only of entertainment but also of maintaining morale, and the powers – that – be were right to put a high priority on its continuance. Now, however, instead of two separate entrainments there was a combined concert party, and the entertainment was of a very high standard. Many well known artists of considerable repute were among the prisoners at Changi.’
Source: You’ll Never Get Off The Island by Keith Wilson; 1989, Pg 93

‘The men from the Australian Army Entertainment Unit quickly constructed a makeshift theatre in the camps and a variety of plays and musical shows were produced and performed in the theatre. Scripts were rewritten from memory and shows like “Outward Bound”, “Arms and the Man”, “I Killed the Count”, “Love on the Dole” and many others were performed on a regular basis over a period of time. Musicals too, such as “The Mikado”, “The Volga Boatman” and other concerts by singers and musicians were in constant demand. The props and lighting effects created by carpenters and electricians were short of miraculous. The scenery props and background drapes were constructed from scraps of Materials scrounged on the working parties and the ruins of the destroyed buildings by the shelling and bombing o Singapore. The Japanese guards often attended the musicals and artist’s shows, but avoided the plays because most of them didn’t understand the English language.’

Source: Changi Teenage Soldiers by Gerard Sampson, pg220 (an unpublished manuscript / book)