From Christmas 1938 Jack McNaugthon was appearing in The Gate Revue at the Ambassador’s Theatre, off Shaftsbury Avenue in London. He was part of a cast headed by Hermione Gingold and Walter Crisham that featured himself, Michael Wilding, Joan Swinstead, Gabrielle Brune, Cyril Butcher and Derek Farr.
As Nazi Germany was gaining traction in Europe, annexing Austria, unleashing anti-Semitic pogroms and gaining ground in Eastern Europe, back in Britain a society that was not psychologically prepared for war was enjoying satire and revue like never before. Satire then, as it is now, was a tonic for the gloom of political inadequacy.
The revue included satirical 25 pieces including songs and sketches. Traditionally the revue had been staged at the members-only Gate Theatre Studio in Villiers Street. As a private adult entertainment venue it avoided the Lord Chamberlain’s censorship. This meant that it could stage cutting edge satire and independent comedy which would not have been tolerated in the West End.
However, the 1938/39 revue became so popular that it was moved to the Ambassador’s Theatre in order to accommodate a wider audience. It “had been improved by a wisely tolerant blue pencil, as a public show; but the second edition, though it admits one or two sentimentalities in recognition of the larger public it may now hope to please, shows quite clearly that Miss [Diana] Morgan and Mr [Robert] McDermot have not forgotten how to sting.”
The Bystander explained that “every Christmas the Gate Theatre’s revue draws its packed audiences to Villiers Street. This year the run went on and on and still not half the people had seen it who wanted to. So now it is at the Ambassadors, its ribald wit and impertinent satire little the worse for the censor’s attentions.”