REVIEW: Pick-Up Girl


  • Youth Theatre Production
  • British National Tour – Autumn/Winter 1946/47.

The story, which was written by Elsa Shelley, is set entirely in a juvenile court, and is set in the United States during the present day (for reasons known only to the Author herself, the American location was retained).

The play was premiered in Britain in May of 1946, having been produced by the New Lindsay Theatre Club, and transferred to the West End in July of the same year. Producer and director, Peter Cote, brought in a youthful cast – possibly to appeal to a younger audience, for this revival.

In the very early performances, PETER played ‘The Door Attendant’ – a very minor role even in a youth theatre production, but managed to gain promotion throughout its run, by playing both ‘A Young Man’ and, after Bryan Spielman left the cast, taking over as ‘Policeman Owens’.

Interestingly, in all the programmes that were produced for the English tour misspelled PETER’s name – listing him as PETER WINGARDE.

Although the ideals and objectives of Juvinile Courts both here in Britain and in the United States are identical, court procedure in America is quite different, and those processes had to be explained by a serving magistrate (Mark Auliff J.P.) in the programme, given that audiences weren’t quite so familiar with U.S. courtroom dramas back then as we are now.

The eponymous ‘Pick-Up Girl’, Elizabeth Collins, was played by Doreen Hughes who, Mr Auliff pointed out, had her counterparts in this country. Elsa Shelly, we were told, had spent years studying child criminals, and had used the play to point out that the age of female delinquents in particular, had dropped from 18 to just 15.

Mr Auliff continued by saying that he’d seen the play in rehearsal, and was impressed by its accuracy – recommending it to anyone who had an interest in ‘social problems’. “I believe that the deep-seeing and relentless analysis so dramatically placed before us in ‘Pick-Up Girl’,” he continued, “cannot fail to leave an indelible mark on the imagination”.


Above: Press advertisement for the play in Leeds

‘On tour of a play about juvenile delinquency by Elsa Shelley called ‘Pick-Up Girl’, Peggy joined late to replace an actress who’d fallen out with the director.

A very young PETER WYNGARDE was in the cast. One day he missed a matinee performance because he’d mixed up the days and had gone to the cinema instead. Peggy decided to help and covered up for him.

When he returned to the theatre for the evening performance, he found a note from Peggy. ‘I’ve told them you’d gone to the matinee of the pre-London tour of the Old Vic with Olivier and Richardson in the same production. And that I thought you’d learn more than at our matinee. Back me up, Peggy’.

The fact that the Old Vic was not expected in town for another two weeks seem to have escaped her and landed WYNGARDE in even deeper trouble.

“I was severely reprimanded for making up such a poor excuse,” says WYNGARDE.

Peggy simply roared with laughter.’

Taken from: ‘Peggy: The Life and Times of Margaret Ramsey, Play Agent’ by Colin Chambers. Methuen Publishing Ltd.

  • ISBN-10: 0312177135
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312177133


Original programme from The Bristol Hippodrome. Notice PETER’s name has been misspelt.

What happens on tour, stays on tour…

The tour of ‘Pick-Up Girl’ visited many of the major towns and cities of England in 1946/47, including Birmingham, Bristol and… Blackpool.

The company were put up in a typical B&B close to the famous Grand Theatre on Church Street, where the play was to be performed. One of the older actresses in the group who’d been cast to play Mrs. Marti and was eventually replaced by Peggy Ramsey (see the story above), had managed to get her claws into PETER and wouldn’t let go.

“Everywhere I went, she was there,” he says. “At lunch, dinner – whatever, she always succeeded in getting a seat next to me. In the end I decided to s**g her and get it over with”.

The trouble was that the bed in they chose creaked so much that everyone within a 25-mile radius knew what was going on: “It was really off-putting,” PETER recalls, “but all she kept yelling was ‘Oh God! Oh God! Don’t stop! Don’t stop!’”

On the following morning when he went down for breakfast, PETER found all the other members of the cast – which included Edmund Bailey, all sitting quietly in the dining room. That was until everyone last one of them to man started up with: ‘CREAK! CREAK! CREAK! CREAK!…’ At which Bailey inquired: “SO – what did you get up to last night, PETER?”

“I didn’t know what to do with myself as I munched my cornflakes,” he admits. “They didn’t let me forget it in a hurry either!”

© The Hellfire Club: The OFFICIAL PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society:


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