“It’s Behind You!”

Oh, no it isn’t – Oh, yes it is!

Aladdin – Aldbourne Light Entertainment Club production February 2023

Did you experience the return of pantomime to the Memorial Hall stage? A fantastic production and enjoyable occasion all round. I passed the Hall during the (fully booked) matinee and heard the audience very much playing their part.

Many congratulations to all concerned!

Aladdin – Aldbourne Light Entertainment Club production February 2023

Aladdin was following in a fine tradition of light-hearted plays in Aldbourne. However, it’s tricky to pinpoint the first panto (if anyone has any details to share, it would be great to hear from you).

In the first decade of the twentieth century a tradition of Fairy Plays arose, inspired (according to Mr Google) by Féerie, that had its roots in France. Here in Aldbourne, this seems to have taken the form of performances like “Jack & The Beanstalk”. In 1922 – just a couple of months after the official opening – unsettled weather forced the company inside the Memorial Hall. Having the venue available must have been a huge relief for the organisers and performers. All present enjoyed the production, which raised £11 4s 1d for the Church Fund. Can we take that as the first instance of pantomime here in the village, I wonder?

Further records show other successful concerts with drama and song, organised by Miss Jackson (the Headmaster’s daughter), to raise funds for the Girl Guides. Miss Adeline Fox – an accomplished artist living in the Old Rectory with her sister Evelyn – “painted scenery suitable for two Fairy Plays that the children attempted”. That was once again in the Memorial Hall and took place in 1924.

The next reference I ran across isn’t pantomime, but three touring plays that sound amazing, and appeared on the Memorial Hall stage in March 1949.

Parish Magazine – with thanks to Aldbourne Heritage Centre

Enter the Aldbourne Women’s Institute Drama Group. With thanks to Sandy Hathaway for this local paper review from 1969. Many, many pantos with some memorable performances and characters – all following the fine traditions of the genre (oh, yes they did!) and didn’t they do it well.

Full circle to ALEC, entertaining the village for the last 40 years with Pantomimes, Plays, Musicals, Reviews, Murder Mysteries – long may the list continue. Just as promised in 1949, “a great laughing evening” was enjoyed by all. Thank you ALEC.

The Aldbourne Light Entertainment Club display at the Centenary of the Aldbourne War Memorial Hall in July 1922

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