ACT in Action Issue 17
Issue No 17, 2020 - £2.50 ACT in Action
Drama Award Winners 2019 It’s a Bloke in a Frock A Man for All Seasons
Musical, Musical Comedy & Youth Award Winners New Mills Breathes Life into Historic Building Pictures from the 2019 Awards Evenings Reviews of your shows
The Magazine for the Association of Community Theatre
From the Green Room A s you are not meeting, for this issue we felt it was best to put the latest ACT in Action on line for all your members to have access to it. As you can see through the pages there is no mention of the pandemic. The magazine was prepared before the lockdown. We were ready, as usual, for Members’ Day, but then the event as you know has had to be put on hold because of Covid-19 and lockdown restrictions. As we were unable to hold our A.G.M., the ACT board has agreed to continue in their respective roles until Members’ Day can be re- arranged. Your magazine is full of your reviews and your society news. These pages can be a suspension in time for us and act as a starting place for when we all able to meet up at our next productions. Until then keep your news coming for the social platforms - and keep safe. John
Reviews The Addams Family - Mid Cheshire Youth ��������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 16 Aladdin - Players Youth Theatre ���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 44 Alice in Wonderland - Bytes ���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 25 All In Good Time - Burnley Garrick �������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 27 Anything Goes - Dukinfield AO & DS ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 15 Billy Liar - Manchester Athenæum ����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 20 Breaking the Code - Bollington Festival Players ������������������������������������������������������������������������� 16 Breath of Spring - Altrincham Little Theatre ������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 38 Camelot - The Panto - Bacup R.C.T. ��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 33 Chicago - Congress Players ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 20 Cinderella - Burnley Pantomime Society ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 36 Dead Certain - Altrincham Little Theatre ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 47 Dead Certain - Droylsden Little Theatre �������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 37 Dick Whittington & His Cat - St Joseph’s Players ����������������������������������������������������������������������� 41 Ghost, the Musical - Knutsford MTC ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 14 Guys and Dolls - TEMPO �������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 46 Hansel and Gretel - Bollington F.P. ����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 35 Hansel and Gretel - Friends of the Arts Theatre ������������������������������������������������������������������������� 41 In Concert - The Three Towns ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 25 Kindertransport - Players Theatre ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 46 The Kitchen Sink - Droylsden L.T. ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 28 The Lion in Winter - Players Theatre �������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 23 Love from a Stranger - Altrincham L.T. ��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 22 Made in Dagenham - Mid-Schire MTC ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 42 Naughty Marietta - The Operetta Company �������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 45 Neville’s Island - Worsley Intimate Theatre ���������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 43 Oliver! - Aldreley & Wilmslow MTC ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 47 Private Lives - St. Joseph’s Players ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 13 The Revlon Girl - Burnley Garrick ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 40 Robin Hood - the Panto - PADOS ����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 30 Showcase - Rochdale M.T.C. ���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 24 Sleeping Beauty, the musical - Mossley A.O & D.S. ������������������������������������������������������������������� 32 Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs - Antrobus Players ����������������������������������������������������������������� 37 The Snow Queen - Hyde Little Theastre ��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 31 Snow White & the 7 Dwarfs - Apeel Drama Group ������������������������������������������������������������������� 39 Steaming - Colne Dramatic Society ���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 26 The Sound of Music - New Mills A.O.&D.S. �������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 21 The Wedding Singer - PaP Productions ��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 18 Witchfinder - Junction 4 Productions ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 15 The Wizard of Oz Jr - PADOS Junior ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 42 The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband - Blackburn Drama Club 18 ������������������������������������ 18 The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband - Colne Dramatic Society ���������������������������������������� 43 Contents Drama Award Winners 2019 ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 50 It’s a Bloke in a Frock ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 5 AMan for All Seasons ��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 12 Musical, Musical Comedy & Youth Award Winners ����������������������������������������������������������� 56 New Mills Breathes Life into Historic Building ������������������������������������������������������������������ 11 Pantomime Chronology ���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 8 Pictures from Awards Night ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 48 Pictures from the Awards Evenings ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 48 Reviews �������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 13 Snippets ���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 3
Cover Photo : Romiley Operatic Society presentation of “Oliver” Photo Martin Ogden
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ASDA Green Token Event Colne Dramatic Society has published “A huge 'thank you!' to everyone who voted for Colne Little Theatre in the Green Token event at ASDA. Our thanks too to Jacquie and Pauline Poole who nominated the theatre. We are absolutely thrilled to announce that we won the event with the most tokens given to our collection by shoppers at the store. At the beginning of November, we collected the cheque for £500.00
(The society’s Chairman John Gott, their wonderful set designer John Mills and their president, Donald Leaver, collected the cheque on behalf of the society).
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It’s a bloke in a frock! … A pantomime dame is a traditional role in British pantomime. It is part of the theatrical tradition of travesti portrayal of female characters by male actors in drag. Dame characters are often played either in an extremely camp style, or else by men acting butch in women's clothing. They usually wear heavy make up and big hair, have exaggerated physical features, and perform in an over-the-top style. …It’s a girl in trousers!
Principal Boys The tradition of women dressing up as men on stage started in the 18th century. Male roles played by women were known as 'breeches parts'. With the increase in popularity of the ballerina in Romantic Ballet male dancers went out of fashion and women would often perform the male role. In the theatre Madame Vestris made her name playing the roles of boys and men in burlesques and operas. This was a period when women dressed modestly covering their legs with long dresses. To see a woman in short trousers and tights was considered particularly risqué and Madame Vestris was the sex symbol of the 1830s. Madame Vestris was exceptional in that she was the first actress- manager, a successful female performer who leased and ran a London theatre, the Olympic Theatre, from 1830-1849. The picture below is from a production called Olympic Devils , a burletta staged as the Christmas entertainment in 1831 and based on the classical Greek legend of Orpheus. The show was appropriately pantomimic in style: the script was full of verbal puns and slapstick humour. In the legend, Orpheus' severed head floated down a river still singing. This effect was created by
the female roles were played by boys or men. Comic dames first began to appear in pantomime in the early 19th century. In 1820 the clown Joseph Grimaldi played the Baron's
Dorothy Ward as Principal Boy
Ada Blanche as Robinson Crusoe
wife in one of the earliest versions of Cinderella. The dame role slowly evolved over the next fifty years and really took off at the end of the 19th century. Dames came in several types: working class and plain, glamorous and snobbish, or grotesque and elegant. In the late 19th century it became the vogue for Music Hall and Variety stars to perform in pantomimes. Some female impersonators from the Halls began to play
Madame Vestris sticking her head through a hole in a painted model of some water, and the model being pulled across the stage. Unfortunately, the contraption did not move smoothly, and the effect was apparently spoiled by shouts from offstage of 'Faster! Slower! Looser! Pull... Damn it! You'll strangle her!'. Apart from this the production was a huge success. Like the pantomime dame, the principal boy character evolved slowly
the Dame role. Famous 19th century dames include Dan Leno and Herbert Campbell. In the 1940s and 50s Variety stars such as Arthur Askey took on the Dame role for the pantomime season. More recently pop stars, television personalities and sports stars have played the role of the Dame. The Dame character has remained consistent for the last hundred years or so. Dames have a bawdy sense of humour, outrageous costumes and extrovert
characters. They interact with the audience, initiate slapstick and play tricks on the other performers. The costumes they wear play a large part in the jokes and are often visual puns. Most pantomime dames have been
throughout the 19th century. Women such as Vesta Tilley made their names as male impersonators in the music halls before treading the boards in pantomimes as principal boys. By the 1880s the hero role in the pantomime was always played by a woman. Famous principal boys have included Marie Lloyd, the Queen of the Music Halls, and in the 20th century, Dorothy Ward. More recently principal boys have
played by men, however there are a few exceptions. Nellie Wallace, a comedienne in the 1930s, was a popular dame. Nellie Wallace was a music hall star who made her name playing comic characters and singing comic songs such as 'I was the early birdie after the early worm,' and 'I've been jilted by the baker Mr White'. Nellie began performing in pantomime when she was only seven years old and added a comic fall to her tiny part in the pantomime, to get more laughs. She did attempt serious roles, but her performance in Little Willie's deathbed
been played by TV soap stars, pop stars and sports personalities. In the 1950s and 1960s there was a trend for male principal boys with pop stars like Cliff Richard playing the role. Pantomime dames There were no pantomime dames in early pantomime but there is a long tradition of women's roles being performed by men in English theatre. In Shakespeare's day women were not allowed to perform on the stage and all
Dan Leno as Widow Twankey 1896 © Victoria & Albert Museaum
scene in East Lynne was received with so much laughter that Nellie was finally convinced she should not attempt to be a serious actress. This is one of Nellie's music hall characters - a spinster with buck teeth and heavily drawn eyebrows who wore an ill- fitting tweed suit,
Vesta Tilley in Principal Boy costume
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a hat with one feather protruding at the top, and a fur which she referred to as 'me little bit of vermin'. Her exaggerated dress sense, bordering on the grotesque, made her one of the few women who appeared successfully as a pantomime dame. Dan Leno played his first pantomime Dame at the Surrey Theatre in 1886. George Conquest, the Surrey's manager, had seen him singing the comic song 'Going to buy milk for the twins' at the Middlesex Music Hall. He noticed how well skirts suited Leno and booked him as the Dame for Jack and the Beanstalk . It was not long before Leno was hired by Augustus Harris, who produced the spectacular pantomimes at the
spent hours watching the animal he would be impersonating: he borrowed a poodle in the weeks before Babes in the Wood opened so that he could observe it. The performances were physically extremely demanding, and Lauri had to be an acrobat as well as an actor. In Babes the poodle performed tricks, such as jumping through a hoop, and he was described in a review as 'the most agile performing poodle ever seen'. Animals are a regular feature of pantomime and were added into pantomime stories if they were not already part of the plot. Real animals were often used on stage, but there was plenty of humour to be found in animals played by human actors wearing animal costumes (known as 'skins'). The first animal to make an appearance in a pantomime was a donkey, ridden by a
Nellie Wallace, black and white photograph, early 20th century. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Charles Lauri as 'The French Poodle', The Sketch Magazine, 15th March 1893. Museum no. 131655. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Leno was such a success as the Baroness in the 1888 Babes in the Wood , that Harris booked him for the next three pantos, and eventually - as Leno would boast - 'for the term of my natural life'. The production of Aladdin in 1896 was not seen as one of Drury Lane's best shows, but Dan Leno's Widow Twankey was judged by many to be his finest Dame. The Stage's review was typical: 'Singing, dancing or acting, Mr Leno is at his best this season ... he stands out through the production as certainly the most clever actor who has
clown. Occasionally, actors made a career out of playing animals. Charles Lauri, for example, was known as the 'Garrick of Animal Mimes', and perfected the parts of the dog in Sinbad the Sailor and the cat in Puss in Boots. The Conquest family, George Senior, Fred, Arthur, and George Junior brought to life a remarkable menagerie, appearing variously as a parrot, monkey, and goose as well as well as the more unusual octopus, oyster and flying fish! Fred Fitzroy, a former trapeze artist, played a pantomime cat later in his stage career. Notable pantomime dames • Peter Alexander – (born 1952) Notable dame in pantomimes in Yorkshire. • Stanley Baxter – (born 1926) Award winning Scottish actor and impressionist, famous for his lavish productions, notably at The King’s Theatre, Glasgow • Douglas Byng – (1893–1988) A legendary dame who appeared in over 50 pantomimes, Byng was also a noted cabaret and revue artiste. He was the first glamorous dame and designed all his own costumes. • Christopher Biggins – (born 1948) TV personality, actor • Steven Blakeley – (born 1982) Blakeley has appeared in numer- ous pantomimes at Theatre Royal Windsor • Herbert Campbell (1844–1904) a highly popular pantomime dame alongside Dan Leno at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. • Les Dawson – (1931–1993) English comedian, remembered for his deadpan style and curmudgeonly persona.
been seen for many years in this class of work'. Affectionately known as 'Bunch', Nelson Keys was a well-known comedian and impersonator. He appeared in music halls all over London and acted in reviews in the 1920s and 1930s with Ciceley Courtneidge, Beatrice Lillie and Gertrude Lawrence. His gift for mimicry even enabled him to bluff his way as a dancer, copying the steps until he had learnt them well enough to appear with professional dancers. Bunch played Mother Hubbard in Red Riding
Hood at Covent Garden in 1938. The young Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret were taken to see it by their mother, the Queen. Red Riding Hood turned out to be the last pantomime presented at Covent Garden theatre, the theatre that had contributed so much to the birth of British pantomime over 200 years before. Animal impersonators Pantomime animals appear in many
of the traditional pantomimes. Jack has a cow in Jack and the Beanstalk and Dick Whittington has his famous cat. There are also pantomime horses, geese and dogs. In the 19th century, some actors specialised in performing animal roles,
Nelson “Bunch” Keys
which were known as 'skin parts'. Johnny Fuller specialised in 'skin parts' - particularly cats - and was one of the most well known animal impersonators in pantomime, along with a few others such as Charles Lauri. Puss in Boots and Dick Whittington cannot happen without a cat, but all the early Victorian pantomime subjects allowed generous leeway for the addition of cats if they wished, and a 'highly clever and comical cat' featured in A, Apple Pie, or, Harlequin, Jack in the Box and the Little Boy Blue. Charles Lauri was famous for his animal impersonations and
regularly appeared at Drury Lane as one creature or another. The photograph of Lauri as a dog is from the 1888 Drury Lane pantomime, Babes in the Wood. Although referred to in the programme as 'The Pug Dog', Lauri is quite clearly meant to be a poodle. Charles Lauri's imitations were exceptional for the accuracy with which they reproduced the movements of different animals. When rehearsing for a part, he
Johnnie Fuller - Cat impersonator
Les Dawson with Roy Barraclough
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• Norman Evans – (1901–1962) “Evans” distinctive dame evolved out of nosy neighbour Fanny Fairbottom, a character he played on the sketch show Mr Tower of London. Fanny was hugely pop- ular, and allegedly inspired Les Dawson to create the character of Ada”. • Rikki Fulton – (1924–2004) Award winning Scottish actor and comedian who also made numerous appearances in Scottish pantomimes, notably at The King’s Theatre, Glasgow • Patrick Fyffe – Creator of Dame Hilda Bracket, one half of Hinge and Bracket. • Chris Harris – Dame at Theatre Royal, Bath for many years, and writer and director of many pantomimes. • Melvyn Hayes – (born 1935) TV personality, actor well known for playing Gunner/Bombardier ‘Gloria’ Beaumont in BBC TV’s It Ain’t Half Hot Mum • John Inman – (1935–2007) Camp comedy actor well known for playing Mr Humphries in BBC TV’s Are You Being Served? • Berwick Kaler – (born 1947) Currently Britain’s longest serving, Kaler has played his extremely non-camp dame at York Theatre Royal since 1977 • Dan Leno – (1860–1904) a legendary pantomime dame, whose ghost is said to haunt the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. • Danny La Rue – (1927–2009) Irish-born British entertainer known for his singing and drag impersonations. • Dave Lee – (1948–2012) • John Linehan (born 1952) – Northern Irish actor and panto- mime dame better known as the character May McFettridge. Resident Dame at Grand Opera House, Belfast. • G. S. Melvin – (1886–1946) Scottish pantomime dame famous for his song “I’m Happy When I’m Hiking”. • Horace Mills - (1864-1941) British pantomime dame of the early 20th-century particularly at the Prince’s Theatre in Bristol • Paul O’Grady – (born 1955) British comedian and actor best known for presenting the daytime chat television series, The Paul O’Grady Show and his drag queen comedic alter ego, Lily Savage. • Shaun Prendergast (born 1958) – Resident Dame at Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith since 2010. Has been quoted in the Daily Telegraph as being ‘finest, funniest pantomime Dame in London’. • Harry “Little Tich” Relph – (1867–1928) He was noted for his various characters, including The Spanish Señora, The Gendarme, and The Tax Collector, but his most popular routine was his Big Boot dance, which involved a pair of 28-inch boots. • Kenneth Alan Taylor playing the pantomime dame for many years in his own productions at Nottingham Playhouse • Tommy Trafford – (1927–1993) Lancashire comedian and noted pantomime dame. • Jack Tripp – (1922–2005) An English comic actor, singer and dancer who appeared in seaside variety shows and revues.
Pictured - Pantomime Dames
1. Chris Harris 2. Dan Leno 3. Berwick Kaler
4. Dan La Rue 5. John Inman 6. Patrick Fyffe 7. Kenneth Alan Taylor 8. Norman Evans 9. Shaun Prendergast
10. Paul O’Grady 11. Les Dawson 12. Stanley Baxter
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Pantomime Chronology Ancient pantomime, one of the greatest attractions on the ancient stage from the end of the first century BC until the end of the sixth century AD, was a lavish and highly skilled performance in which gestures, bodily movements, words, songs, and music contributed to stir the emotions of the audience. Worshipped and despised at the same time, pantomimic dancers ignited the imagination of their contemporaries and threatened the rigid system of established cultural and social roles. Ancient authors report that this theatrical medium was introduced at Rome during the reign of Augustus by Pylades of Cilicia and Bathyllus of Alexandria. Given the complex and sophisticated nature of ancient pantomime, it seems likely that the two alleged founders of the genre did not invent a completely new theatrical art form, but substantially transformed one already in existence. 1st century BC-5th century AD The term 'pantomime' (from the
established Lincoln's Inn as the leading theatrical venue in London. 1732 John Rich opened the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, where he remained the leading pantomime producer and Harlequin for another 30 years. 1737 The Licensing Act confirmed the sole right of the two Patent Theatres (Covent Garden and Drury Lane) * to present spoken drama. 1750 David Garrick staged his first pantomime, Queen Mab , at Drury Lane, in response to the rival success of Covent Garden. 1773 First performance of Jack the Giant Killer (as a Christmas play at Drury Lane). 1779 Spoken lines played a more prominent role in The Touchston e; or, Harlequin Traveller at Covent Garden, a theatre where, at the time, dialogue was permitted). 1780 George Colman's The Genius of Nonsense promoted the use of fairytales as source material and subsequently plots were drawn from all manner of folk traditions and from popular literature. Meanwhile the comic emphasis of the harlequinade gradually shifted from Harlequin to Pierrot. 1781 First performance of Robinson Crusoe (in a version by R. B. Sheridan at Drury Lane), in which scenes from the harlequinade were no longer interwoven with the 'mythological' narrative but were given separately after the 'Opening'. The two parts of the entertainment were linked by a 'transformation scene' (in which the characters of the Opening were now revealed in the form of Harlequin and his fellows). The infant Joseph Grimaldi made his stage debut. 1786 Robinson Crusoe and Harlequin's Invasion became the first pantomimes to be staged in the USA (at the John Street Theatre, New York). 1788 First pantomime production of Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp (at Covent Garden). Outside the two Patent Theatres other venues get round the Licensing Act by presenting `burlettas' (which include many 'straight' dramas disguised as burlettas by the inclusion of musical interludes); increasingly pantomimes incorporate spoken passages. 1791 First performance of Bluebeard (at Covent Garden). 1793 First performance (as an opera) of The Babes in the Wood (at the Haymarket). 1800 Joseph Grimaldi made his first appearance as Clown — a restyled Pierrot — at Sadler's Wells and James Byrne adopted the distinctive diamond-patched coat to play Harlequin (the colour of each patch representing a particular emotion). The harlequinade approached its peak and the pantomime, presented chiefly at Christmas and Easter, became the major item of the evening's entertainment. Pantomime dames played by men become an increasingly common sight. 1803 First performance of Little Red Riding Hood (at Sadler's Wells). 1804 First performance of Cinderella (at Drury Lane). 1806 Grimaldi is acclaimed as Clown in Mother Goose and in his hands the harlequinade enters its golden era, with Clown as its most popular character. Such writers as Charles Farley and the Dibdins sharpen the satirical content of the pantomime in collaboration with Grimaldi. First performance of The Sleeping Beauty (at Drury Lane). 1814 First performances of Dick Whittington and his Cat (at Covent Garden) and Sinbad the Sailor (at Drury Lane). 1815 The part of principal boy in a pantomime is played by a woman for the first time (in Charles Farley's Harlequin and Fortunio at Covent Garden). 1818 First performance of Puss in Boots (at Covent Garden). 1819 Eliza Povey, the first female principal boy known by name, played the role of Idle Jack in the first performance of Jack and the Beanstal k
Greek, meaning 'We can act everything') was first used in reference to the performers who presented popular and often bawdy solo comic entertainments throughout the Roman Empire (otherwise unconnected to the English pantomime tradition). Cross-dressing became a feature of the Bacchanalia, with slaves dressing in the clothes of their masters and mistresses.
Venetian Mask Pierrot, cover the entire face, realized in papier mache and venetian stucco.The Pierrot mask was a character famous for its origins in pantomime and in the Commedia del’Arte during the 1600s © Smandy | Dreamstime
14th-16th centuries. The study of Roman and Greek theatre was nurtured during the Renaissance and promoted the convention of cross-dressing in the English theatre, in which all female roles were taken by boys and men. The commedia dell'arte tradition combining dance, dialogue, and knockabout comedy developed in Italy. 1602 An Italian commedia dell'arte company performed at the court of Elizabeth I. Meanwhile Italian companies settled permanently in Paris, where the tradition continued to develop. 1660 Following the Restoration of Charles II. English theatre was revived 1673 Tiberio Fiorillo's commedia dell'arte company, one of several to come from France to post-Restoration England, created a sensation in London. 1685 Characters from the commedia dell'arte made their first significant appearance in a play by an English playwright (William Mountford's 1700 Christopher Rich invited French troupes to perform Italian Night Scenes at Drury Lane and this established a new theatrical fashion. c.1702 John Weaver staged The Cheats; or, The Tavern Bilkers , in which he exploited the conventions of Italian Night Scenes and attempted to revive the pantomimus tradition of ancient Rome. 1717 John Weaver staged his ballet-pantomime The Loves of Mars and Venus. This was the first production actually billed as a 'pantomime'. The Harlequin Sorcerer , the first of a series of innovative pantomimes combining scenes based on Classical mythology or folklore with silent scenes (interspersed with songs and dances) depicting the comic adventures of the lovers Harlequin and Columbine as they are pursued by other characters derived from the commedia dell'arte , was the first `harlequinades'. 1723 John Rich's Necromancer ; or, Harlequin and Doctor Faustus Doctor Faustus ). Subsequently commedia dell'arte characters also figured in plays by such writers as Aphra Behn and Edward Ravenscroft.
Pantomime is often seen as something quaint, something utterly British, but its origins lie in warmer climes. It developed from the Italian street theatre of the Commedia dell’arte in the 16th Century, with comedic moments, stock characters and great physicality.
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(at Drury Lane). Still a very young girl, she and her successor Elizabeth Poole played juvenile heroes (unlike the principal boys of later times). 1823 Grimaldi retired through ill-health (making his last regular appearance on tour in Birmingham). Clarkson Stanfield is engaged as a scene painter at Drury Lane and subsequently became famous for his dioramas. 1827 Pantomimes staged at Covent Garden and Drury Lane cost up to £1000 apiece. 1830 Madame Vestris took over the Olympic Theatre (becoming the first woman to manage a London theatre) and enjoyed immediate success with Olympic Revels , the first of an acclaimed series of burlesque extravaganzas by J. R. Planché. The genre subsequently had a profound influence upon the pantomime proper and hastened the adoption of spoken dialogue, the use of more lavish scenery, and the decline of the harlequinade. The popularity of Vestris in male roles promoted the concept of the thigh-slapping female principal boy. 1831 A production of Mother Goose toured to New York. The audience, however, failed to understand the play and it was not a success. 1836 Planché presented his first extravaganza based on a fairytale, Riquet with the Tuft . 1837 Grimaldi died. With managements having proved unable to find anyone capable of matching him as Clown the emphasis switched from comedy to spectacle; speciality acts were seen with increasing frequency and the harlequinade continued to contract. 1843 The Theatre Regulation Act allowed all theatres to present a range of theatrical entertainments, subject only to approval by the Lord Chamberlain, thus ending the Patent Theatres' monopoly of spoken drama. 1844 First performance of a pantomime by E. L. Blanchard, later known as the 'Prince of Openings', whose charming and elegantly written works raised the Victorian pantomime to new heights. 1846 First pantomime performance of Ali Baba and the FortyThieves (at Astley's Amphitheatre). putting further pressure on the harlequinade. As venues stage shorter and shorter harlequinades, performers in them were paid less than actors in the opening. The first mature female principal boys appeared in the pantomime (the honour of the very first possibly going to a 'Miss Saunders' in 1847 or a 'Miss Ellington' in 1852). 1861 First performance of H. J. Byron's classic burlesque Aladdin , which introduced the character Widow Twankey. The production's success confirmed the popularity of the female principal boy and promoted the casting of men in the role of dame on a regular basis. 1868 George L. Fox's production of Humpty-Dumpty ran for over 1,200 performances at the Olympic Theatre, New York, making it the most successful pantomime in U.S. history. 1870s Performances of pantomime, which was at a height of popularity and prestige, could last up to three hours or more. Pantomimists increasingly aimed to please juvenile audiences, though striving at the same time to offer something for all ages. Besides the Patent Theatres, other leading homes of the pantomime included the Britannia, Grecian, and Surrey Theatres. Pantomime would regularly last for many weeks at venues throughout the UK. 1879 Augustus Harris becomes manager of Drury Lane and went on to stage a series of themost sumptuous pantomimes yet seen, complete with speciality acts, flying ballets, spectacular scenery, celebrated principal boys, and casts of several hundred. He also made the pantomime 1849 William Beverley designs the first of many dazzling transformation scenes, for Planché's The Island of Jewels . 1850s Virtually all pantomimes — now uniquely associated with the Christmas season — incorporated dialogue,
the sole item of the evening's entertainments and strengthened it by recruiting leading music hall performers, which led to complaints that the pantomime was being vulgarised. 1883 The ever-shrinking harlequinade was finally dropped from the Drury Lane pantomime for the first time. 1886 Dan Leno appeared in pantomime for the first time, playing the Dame in Jack and the Beanstalk at the Surrey Theatre. 1888 Dan Leno won acclaim in the first of the 16 consecutive annual pantomimes at Drury Lane in which he starred. Other stars of this golden age of Drury Lane pantomime included Marie Lloyd, Little Tich, and Herbert Campbell.
1896 Augustus Harris, considered the father of the modern pantomime, died, but the tradition of spectacular Drury Lane productions continued under Arthur Collins. 1900 Collins presents The Sleeping Beauty and the Beast , the first of J. Hickory Wood's celebrated pantomimes, which effectively set the pattern for pantomime scripts for future years. 1904 Both Dan Leno (creator of the modern pantomime dame) and fellow-comedian Herbert Campbell died. Under Collins a new generation of
comedians, including Harry Randall, Wilkie Bard, and George Graves enjoyed enormous success at Drury Lane. First performance of J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan . 1909 The Melville brothers became managers of the Lyceum Theatre and begin an almost unbroken run of highly successful old-fashioned pantomimes that did not finally come to an end until 1939. They were the last London management to stage brief harlequinades as an integral part of their pantomimes. 1912-15 Collins cast male performers in the role of principal boy in four successive pantomimes at Drury Lane, but the experiment didnot catch on. 1920 In the face of competition from the musical comedy, Drury Lane did not stage its annual pantomime for the first time in nearly 70 years and subsequently only revived the tradition on an occasional basis (in 1929 and 1934). 1930s Through the work of such producers as Julian Wylie a new balance was struck between the comedy element in the pantomime and the fairytale narrative, which was given greater emphasis. 1939 The surviving Melville brother, Frederick, died and the Lyceum's long pantomime tradition ended. 1948 The London Palladium started to emerge as the most prestigious home of the pantomime in the capital. 1950s Norman Wisdom and other male stars were cast in the role of principal boy, threatening the tradition of the female principal boy. The use of traps and flying ballets virtually ended due to safety considerations. 1960s The cost of staging a major West End pantomime rose to anything up to £100,000; subsequently fewer and fewer West End venues were used. Stars from television and the world of pop music were increasingly presented in leading roles (with mixed results); as a side-effect of this the part of the villain was expanded to accommodate accomplished
pantomime performers. Notable dames included Danny La Rue, who broke the tradition of the unsophisticated comical dame by playing the role as a drag queen with great success. 1971 Cilla Black's success as principal boy signaled a return to the female principal boy at most venues. 1970s The increasing use of 'blue' material by pantomime comedians threatened the future of the pantomime as a family entertainment, but the trend was eventually reversed and the pantomime quickly recovered its
Cilla Black as prinsipal boy
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The art of creating an image with the help of body movement, mimicry and wordless gesture, pantomime is claimed by ballet, dance, drama and the circus, but also successfully exists as an independent art in the form of short miniatures. In the early twentieth century pantomime was an important and innovative way to develop and renew the language of scenic expression in the works of many famous Russian directors. During the Stalin era, pantomime virtually banished as an artistic form: pantomime allowed for multiple interpretations, its metaphoric language difficult to control and censor, and Stalin's aesthetics pronounced it on the border formalist creation, while Soviet art promulgated the priority of verbal expression. Even in circus productions, clowns were required to speak. Pantomime continued to exist in classic ballet productions and the individual performance of some stage actors, mostly in comedies. The successful tours of French mimes in the USSR during the Thaw triggered the rebirth of pantomime. Marcel Marceau's performances in 1961 caused an explosion of interest in pantomime as an autonomous art with its own, self-sufficient language. Pantomime's unlimited expressive potential made it possible, without words, to achieve a depth of philosophical generalisation, suggest a wide range of associations, express subtle nuances of emotion and even stress the absurdity of contemporary life. Pantomime in Russia
reputation and entered a boom period. 1980-81 John Morley's Aladdin , staged at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham, set a new record for a pantomime run. 1983 The National Theatre added pantomime to its programme with Cinderella , although the production was not a success. 1984 Rising costs resulted in just one professional pantomime to be staged in London's West End, but another 30 could be seen in Greater London, with 70 in the provinces and another 22 in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland (together with numerous amateur shows). Casts everywhere grew smaller to save money, and the element of spectacle similarly declined. 1992 John Morley's Dick Whittington was chosen for study as part of the National Curriculum. 1992-93 There was no West End pantomime for the first time in living memory due to high costs, but productions elsewhere in the country continued to prosper and included celebrity guests ranging from sportsmen to stars of Australian soap operas. The most frequently seen pantomimes presented in some 200 professional productions were: Cinderella (30 productions), Aladdin (30), Jack and the Beanstalk (20), Dick Whittington (20), Snow White (12), and Babes in the Wood (11). 2016 The London Palladium staged its first pantomime, Cinderella , for nearly four decades. Amateur companies continue to present countless pantomimes, often to a high standard, throughout the world. The most popular pantomimes are: 1. Cinderella 2. Dick Whittington 3. Jack and the Beanstalk 4. Aladdin 5. Beauty and the Beast 6. Snow White 7. Peter Pan * The patent theatres were the theatres that were licensed to perform “spoken drama” after the Restoration of Charles II as King of England, Scotland and Ireland in 1660. Other theatres were prohibited from performing such “serious” drama, but were permitted to show comedy, pantomime or melodrama. Drama was also interspersed with singing or dancing, to prevent the whole being too serious or dramatic. Public entertainments, such as theatrical performances, were banned under the Puritan rule in the English Commonwealth. After he was restored to the throne, Charles II issued letters patent to Thomas Killigrew and William Davenant, granting them the monopoly right to form two London theatre companies to perform “serious” drama. The letters patent were reissued in 1662 with revisions allowing actresses to perform for the first time. Killigrew established his company, the King’s Company at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1663; Davenant established his company, the Duke’s Company, in Lisle’s Tennis Court in Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1661, later moving to Dorset Garden in 1671. In Dublin, theTheatre Royal opened on Smock Alley in 1662; this building survives and was reopened as a theatre in 2012. After problems under the direction of Charles Killigrew, Thomas’ son, the King’s Company was taken over by its rival, the Duke’s Company in 1682. The two companies merged and the combined “United Company” continued under Thomas Betterton at Drury Lane. After some disagreements, Betterton obtained a licence from William III to form a new company at the old theatre in Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1695, which moved to the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden in 1720 (now the Royal Opera House). The two patent theatres closed in the summer months. To fill the gap, Samuel Foote’s Theatre Royal, Haymarket became a third patent theatre in London in 1766. Further letters patent were granted to theatres in other English and Irish towns and cities, including the Theatre Royal, Cork in 1760, the Theatre Royal, Bath in 1768, the Theatre Royal, Liverpool in 1772, the Theatre Royal, Bristol in 1778 and the Theatre Royal, Birmingham in 1807. These monopolies on the performance of “serious” plays were eventually revoked by the Theatres Act 1843, but censorship of the content of plays by the Lord Chamberlain under Robert Walpole’s Theatrical Licensing Act of 1737 continued until 1968.
Clown Anna Orlova with clowns Anwar Libabov and Robert Gorodetsky perform a pantomime pop number. Gorodetsky has created a unique recognizable image skinny intellectual in a frock coat and black top hat. © Viacheslav Dyachkov | Dreamstime
Pantomime therefore became a dissident art form attracting many young people. In the 1960s hundreds of studios arose producing pantomimes as well as hundreds of amateur groups. As it developed it became an essential part of circus performances. By the 1980s pantomime was an intrinsic part of avant-garde drama theatre productions. Throughout the 1990s most theatre companies wither became integrated into dramatic theatre or merged with contemporary dance companies, individual mime numbers continue to occupy an important place in Russian showbusiness and the circus.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Encyclopaedia of Pantomime Ed David Pickering Wikipedia History of Pantomime by Ellen Castelow BBC Introducing Arts Victoria and Albert Museum Archives Encyclopedia of Contemporary Russian Culture Edited by Tatiana Smorodinskaya
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New Mills theatre breathes new life into historic building
Announced early in January. 2019, New Mills Art Theatre was one of three chosen venues to be gifted the iconic comfy golden seats from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. To mark this occasion and to celebrate 60 years of managing and wholly funding the building, the Directors of New Mills Art Theatre Ltd embarked on a project to transform the auditorium into a warm and welcoming public building for all of New Mills and District to enjoy. The restoration delivered largely by volunteers includes the installation of London's famous West End, Theatre Royal, Drury Lane seats. More than 1800 volunteer hours were calculated over a 11-week programme including 100 rolls of wallpaper and 80 litres of paint . In addition to this, the fitting of new carpet featuring the Art Theatre logo (360 m2), new safety flooring (200 m2), new skirting and dado rails (120 m2) and a new heating system.
aspirations. The following year the Bury Art Picture Theatre would follow suit, adopting a similar name and perhaps as importantly the same architect, Albert Winstanley. The construction of a new cinema and variety theatre in New Mills demonstrates that the show-business entrepreneurs of the day saw an opportunity to make money from an expanding community in a place making the transition from a market town to an industrial town. Cinema and theatre activity has always been driven by commercial enterprise. New Mills was no exception to this rule and the location of the building shows a fascinating insight into the perceived potential for further expansion in the town. Today the theatre is managed
and wholly funded by the New Mills Art Theatre Trust. The building was purchased from New Mills Cinema (Sheffield) Ltd. in 1959 and has continued since that time to be operated with a mixed programme of both amateur and professional touring product. It was therefore one of the pioneers organisations who saw an future in owning an historic theatre for both the use and enjoyment of their surrounding community Theatres in the 19th Century
Italian Marble Fireplace in the Main Foyer [photo: New Art Theatre]
It is important to understand that there were several kinds of theatre in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Theatres were designed specifically to fulfil a certain artistic brief. Depending upon the aspirations of the proprietor, a theatre could be designed to accommodate various activities e.g. circus, drama, opera, or music hall. Unlike today, proprietors seldom fell into the ‘multi-purpose trap’ by attempting to create a performing space suitable for every kind of entertainment which ultimately compromised the overall design. The Art Theatre has a number of important elements that collectively define it as an excellent theatre: • A tiered auditorium capable of providing comfortable and accessible seating • An auditorium of great architectural and artistic quality, nationally recognised if not listed • An intimate architectural rendering with excellent actor-audience relationships • A modest but workable stage house with opportunities for further development • A site which could allow further expansion in a sensitive and creative manner should there be an aspiration to do so.
Beverley Eaves, Director of New Mills Art Theatre, said: “It puts a whole new outlook on getting bums on seats. It’s all about team work and making the Art Theatre accessible to a future generation for another 60 years”. She added, “The theatre is loved and run entirely by volunteers. This kind of asset delivers high public worth and deserves to be supported wherever and how ever possible”. The first theatre to be built on the site was the New Mills Hippodrome, which opened in June 1911. The theatre closed in April 1921 and reopened in August 1921 as the 'Art Picture Pla yhouse'. It was commissioned by local theatrical entrepreneurs Messrs. Walters and Law, who had been granted planning permission for their ambitious proposals which had been drawn up by the northern theatre specialist, Albert Winstanley [1876-1943]. The choice of the new name was significant and of the moment. The reconstruction took place whilst cinema was still 'silent' but aspiring to bigger and better artistic aspirations. Today, New Mills Art Theatre continues to promote a variety of programmes serving local community groups and semi-professional acts. The theatre provides a public service at no cost to the public purse. Audiences were delighted to see a programme of events throughout the year including clairvoyant David Holt, Freedom! '19’ (a George Michael tribute concert), Pinked Floyd (Pink Floyd tribute act, a week's run of performances by New Mills AODS with the Musical "The Sound of Music" and a one night performance from comedian and actor Dave Spikey. The New Mills Art Theatre opened on August 29th 1921 as the Art Picture Playhouse. It was commissioned by local theatrical entrepreneurs Messrs. Walters and Law. The choice of the new name is significant and of the moment. The reconstruction took place whilst cinema was still ‘silent’ but aspiring to bigger and better artistic
Volunteers unloading the new seating
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A man for all seasons
COLIN BROWN is part of the furniture at New Mills Arts Theatre, celebrating 63 years of continuous membership this year. Colin has had a multitude of roles since 1956 but it is his acting and behind the scenes work which, with help, has saved the Jodrell Street theatre on more than one occasion. New Mills born and bred Colin, 84, decided to join New Mils Amateur Operatic & Dramatic Society (NMAODS) after seeing earlier productions. His first theatre production, hired for one week annually, was Rose Marie, in which he took the part of Black Eagle and was the chorus The last six decades have seen, to quote Colin, “lots of ups and downs. It has been non-stop and there, always another challenge - I’ve seen it all. The key thing is that we’ve never stood still, and I’ve experienced so much joy down the years” Colin’s considerable upsides include his memorable roles in landmark productions His favourite roles include playing the king three times in the King and I. and starring in Oklahoma! The North West premiere of Fiddler on the Roof in 1972 was the first time the new revolving stage was used. Colin also fondly remembers the North West premiere of the new version of The Pirates of Penzance in 1984. However. amateur theatre would not be amateur theatre without the real-life dramas off stage, too. Soon after Colin joined the Society. the theatre was put on the market by the owners for £2,500 and warehousing was planned for the site. ‘The building was in a terrible state 60 years ago. We asked Sheffield Cinema Company, who owned the building, to grant us a lease, which they did. We had a great community spirit and there were many young actors who wanted the theatre to continue. Volunteers worked seven days a week for 10 weeks. painting the theatre with paint donated locally, replacing worn out seats with those from a closed theatre in Salford and curtains from the closed Gaiety in Manchester. We were so proud of our work. As an electrician, Colin was too modest to mention his electrical work. The theatre was finally made ready for the production of The Scandalous Affair of Mr Kettle and Mrs Moon in September 1959. There were then problems at the end of the lease. The theatre organised a ‘Buy a Brick’ initiative to raise funds to buy the theatre and, literally, at the end of Perchance to Dream in 1966 members of the audience pledged the final few pounds meaning the theatre could
be purchased outright for £3,900. There have been several major refurbishments over the decades. This year’s huge refurbishment including the installation of gold seats donated by the Andrew Lloyd Webber-owned Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. “The theatre is fantastic now with a lovely blend of styles, thanks to the tremendous work from volunteers. Colin said and we are now planning to make improvements to the stage and bar area. Colin, who has two children and four grandchildren, and is President of NMAODS and chairman emeritus of New Mills Art Theatre Limited. Added, “I’m very proud of the not-for-profit theatre serving the community at no cost to them. There are far more leisure time attractions these days but I feel there is increasing interest in theatre in New Mills, and having a wonderful building helps”. Theatre Director, Beverley Eaves was full of praise for Colin: “I first acted wsith Colin when I played on of the children in “The King and I”. He’s a mentor to us all with so much knowledge and welcoming to everyone. He keeps us all going. We’re fortunate to have Colin at the theatre: he’s part of the fixtures and fittings!” But the last word goes to Colin made an appeal for more volunteers to support the theatre into the 2020s by helping with behind the scenes work John Pasiecznik - High Peak Review October 2019
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