Christopher Henry Rothwell Allen



Christopher Henry Rothwell Allen (b. 1933, Bombay, India–d. 2004, United Kingdom),1 more popularly known as Christopher Allen or Chris Allen, was an amateur actor and director who came to Singapore in 1954. He was a prominent member of the expatriate theatre company, Stage Club, which he joined in 1960.2 With the Stage Club, Allen directed and acted in more than 50 plays. For his contributions to the local theatre scene, Allen was awarded the Cultural Medallion for Theatre in 1983.3

Early life
While a student in England, Allen was already interested in the theatre.4 When he arrived in Singapore in 1954, one of his leisure activities was to watch plays put up by the Stage Club,5 which was then a theatre company comprising primarily expatriates living in Singapore.6 In 1960, Allen joined the Stage Club and became actively involved in the club’s activities.7


Career
Allen acted in more than 50 plays in a variety of roles. These roles included a comedic turn as Mr Pepper in The Tunnel of Love,8 the ugly step-sister in Cinderella,9 a vampire hunter in Bram Stoker’s Dracula,10 and an English professor, Professor Higgins, in George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion.11 As an actor, Allen was widely recognised for his versatility and acting abilities. In his earlier days, Allen enjoyed the challenge of playing older men but later in his career became interested in comedic roles.12


Allen was also interested in other aspects of theatre. He produced and directed many well-known plays written by English and American playwrights.13 These included Table Manners14 and Living Together,15 both comedies by English playwright Alan Ayckbourn,16 and the thriller Death Trap by American playwright Ira Levin.17

In 1970, Allen was elected the president of the Stage Club. He was re-elected as president again in 1975, and from 1997 to 1980.18

The Stage Club’s regular audience had been the expatriate community in Singapore, which was largely made up of British soldiers. During his term as club president, Allen and his members tried to stage a wider variety of plays to attract more Singaporeans to their productions.19 One important contribution he made to the local theatre scene was the introduction of Western plays to the local community, which modelled for local theatre practitioners the structures of well-made plays.20

Although Allen himself had no formal training in drama and the members of the Stage Club were amateur actors, he felt that it was important that the club had high standards of production so that the audience would return for the next production.21 He was always looking to improve the acting techniques of club members and other technical details, such as stage lighting and props.22

According to Allen, the formula to a successful production was to have lots of enthusiasm, to enjoy oneself and to entertain the audience. He also believed that drama was “great fun and healthy mental exercise, especially for young people”.23

In the 1980s, Allen also took part in television productions and the big screen. In 1984, he acted in local Mandarin television drama The Awakening,24 which was considered an epic production in those days. In 1986, he acted as a newspaper man in the film Passion Flower.25 Allen was also involved as an assistant director in a documentary about the Raffles Hotel entitled No Room at the Raffles.26

In addition to being an accomplished theatre actor, Allen was also a well-known cricketer and rugby player.27

He returned to the United Kingdom in the late 1980s.28

Family
Wife:
Helen Veronica Goddard-Fenwick.29


List of notable roles
1961:
Mr Peppers in The Tunnel of Love by Peter de Vries.30

1961: Colonel Purdy in Teahouse of the August Moon by John Patrick.31
1979: Professor Higgins in Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw.32
1982: Tiger Brown in The Samseng and the Chettiar’s Daughter by Max Le Blond.33
1984: Professor Van Helsing in Dracula by Bram Stroker.34



Author
Chor Poh Chin



References
1. Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 138. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR); BeckenhamTown.us. (2013, January 25). Inquiring on Beckenham resident, Christopher Allen (b. 1933 - d. 2000s). [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.beckenhamtown.us/forum/topics/inquiring-on-beckenham-resident-christopher-allen-b-1933-d-2000s
2. Entertaining hobby. (1983, November 23). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 138. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR)
4. Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 138. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR)
5. Entertaining hobby. (1983, November 23). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 138. (Call no. RSING 700.95957 NAR)
7. Entertaining hobby. (1983, November 23). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Stage Club expects a ‘heart-warming’ response to new play. (1961, September 28). The Singapore Free Press, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. The Theatre. (1964, November 8). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. James, K. (1984, May 23). Count had no bite. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Pygmalion goes on the stage today. (1979, April 18). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Tan, C. (1983, November 23). A medal to show for his love. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 138. (Call no. RSING 700.95957 NAR)
14. Lam, D. (1979, February 23). Lively wit and humour served over the table. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Putting some fun into living together. (1980, April 13). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Murgatroyd, S. Alan Ayckbourn: Long Biography. Retrieved from http://biography.alanayckbourn.net/styled/index.html
17. Entertainment: Drama. (1983, March 15). Singapore Monitor, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; HarperCollins Publishers. (2013). Ira Levin. Retrieved from http://www.harpercollins.com/authors/21503/Ira_Levin/index.aspx
18.
Tan, C. (1983, November 23). A medal to show for his love. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Tan, C. (1983, November 23). A medal to show for his love. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 138. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR)
21. As wayangs fade out amateurs steal the stage. (1979, October 10). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Tan, C. (1983, November 23). A medal to show for his love. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Tan, C. (1983, November 23). A medal to show for his love. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Big step ahead for local TV drama. (1984, February 6). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Non-stop flow of postcard Singapore. (1986, March 28). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Ngui, C. (1980, November 27). Documentary captures Raffles past with wit.The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Stage Club expects a ‘heart-warming’ response to new play. (1961, September 28). The Singapore Free Press, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. BeckenhamTown.us. (2013, January 25). Inquiring on Beckenham resident, Christopher Allen (b. 1933 - d. 2000s). [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.beckenhamtown.us/forum/topics/inquiring-on-beckenham-resident-christopher-allen-b-1933-d-2000s
29. Cathedral Wedding. (1960, June 5). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Stage Club expects a ‘heart-warming’ response to new play. (1961, September 28). The Singapore Free Press, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31.
‘Teahouse’ play has high degree of skill and polish. (1961, July 9). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. Pygmalion goes on the stage today. (1979, April 18). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. Abisheganaden, J. (1982, November 13). Tasker’s Force. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
34. James, K. (1984, May 23). Count had no bite. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 3 January 2014 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Personalities
Arts