Theatre and Music

In Stobs, the only possibility for entertainment that the prisoners had, was for them to organise it for themselves. From the relatively unsophisticated nature of the Ball in the Canteen 1, the Christmas Revue 2 marked a significant step forward. The opening of the Y.M.C.A. Hall 3 in the military camp, and the hall in the civilian camp (also provided by the Y.M.C.A.) 4 provided environments in which skills could be further developed. This resulted in the flourishing of amateur dramatics. The review of Kleist's "The Broken Jug" as performed in January 1917 illustrates the progress which was made 5. In addition to acting skills, the provision of stage sets and costumes in the camp environment, required significant ingenuity. The Theatre Friends drama group played an important role in the camp until it was disbanded by May 1917 as a result of the establishment of the work camps 6. The Drama Club was active from at least October 1916 7 until December 1918 8. The Apollo Club established itself in 1917, gaining a good reputation. Most of the works performed were comedies, but there were exceptions. It is interesting to note that many of the contemporary authors (such as Ludwig Thoma, Hermann Sudermann, Karl Schönherr and Ludwig Fulda) whose works were performed are no longer popular, while there is little or no mention of authors who are now considered to be representative of the period. This spreadsheet extract provides details of the various performances in the camp and how they related to the Stobsiade editions.

As well as performing in concerts of their own, the musicians in the camp were often involved in theatrical - and even gymnastic - events. There was a camp orchestra, a zither club, a male voice choir, a string quartet, a string orchestra and a brass band. One cannot help thinking that some of the musicians performed in more than one of these ensembles. The orchestra was led by Mr Beu, whose efforts were greatly appreciated 9. In November 1916 the camp had the good fortune to be joined by Staff-Sergeant Bachenheimer who was a professional concert singer 10. His performances were greatly appreciated.

The singing Quartet Club "Trapped Bird" which was popular in the camp 11 was sent to the work camp in Dalmellington, where it managed to hold a concert 12. On its return, it resumed its concerts in Stobs 13, regaining its good reputation. On one occasion, the Stobsiade caused some trouble by criticising the fact that the "Ave-Maria" composed by Gounod but based on music by Bach had been performed, arguing that it was a corruption of the work of the latter 14. This resulted in a spirited poetic response in the next edition 15.