The Whip racecourse scene photograph

The Whip racecourse scene photograph

Act IV, scene 3 of The Whip was the 2000 Guineas horse race, the climax of the plot. Although the onstage rescue and train crash in Act 3 was arguably the highpoint in terms of spectacle, the culmination of the story lay in whether the horse 'The Whip', having been rescued in the nick of time, could go on to win the race. The programme tells us that this scene was designed by R McCleery, but the stage mechanics which created the race effect were the work of Bruce 'Sensation' Smith. Smith's reverse movement of McCleery's beautiful panoramic backcloth, seen here, was impeccable, gaining speed with the horses with absolute precision. As it rolled backwards, the horses appeared to accelerate forwards. Unfortunately on the first night, through no fault of Smith's, 'The Whip' somehow came to be in the wrong 'grid' for the race, and instead of winning came in a rather poor fifth. Despite this slight setback, The Whip went on to be a winner, selling out at Drury Lane, with revivals and countless tours to come.