The Story of Heyford (Extra): The Pantomime

Nether Heyford’s Tradition of Pantomime – November 1995

As we approach pantomime season it is worth reminding ourselves that there has been a pantomime in Nether Heyford almost every year since 1969.

The article below written by Joan Juland (November 1995) gives us an insight into the enjoyment given by the Monday Club pantomime to both the audience and performers.

This year, as usual, the Heyford Players continue the tradition with ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” – Performances will be: 7.30 pm on Friday 26th January, and at 2.30 pm and 7.30 pm on Saturday 27th.  

The Monday Club pantomimes began in a small way, but grew and grew, and still continue now under the Heyford Players. They started as an alternative to a Christmas party, and were put on in December” mainly because we wanted the worry of it out of the way before settling down to arranging the family Christmas, later they were presented in January so that the main rehearsals were done in the quiet time after New Year. The list to date reads thus:  

  • 1969 Red Riding Hood
  • 1970 Goldilocks and the Three Bears
  • 1971 Jack and the Beanstalk 
  • 1972 Cinderella
  • 1973 Sleeping Beauty
  • 1974 Dick Whittington
  • 1975 Hey Diddle Diddle
  • 1976 Aladdin
  • 1978 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
  • 1980 Beauty and the Beast
  • 1981 Mother Goose in Space
  • 1982 Alice in the Underworld
  • 1983 Robinson Crusoe
  • 1984 Snow White
  • 1985 Old King Cole
  • 1986 Jack The Giant Killer
  • 1987 Cinderella
  • 1988 Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood
  • 1989 Aladdin
  • 1990 Peter Pan and the Magic Snowman  

At this point the Monday Club decided to finish doing Pantomimes mainly because our membership numbers had fallen so much that we had many more ‘co-opted‘ members purely to take part in the Pantomime than we had members.   

The Heyford Players were then formed and they have continued the tradition ever since with the following:  

  • 1991 Dick Whittington
  • 1992 The Adventures of Alice
  • 1993 Sleeping Beauty and the Beast 
  • 1994 Ali Babe and the Forty Thieves
  • 1995 Mother Goose  

Many names that appear in the programmes for the early shows have sadly passed on, such as Reg Collins, who always enjoyed having a laugh and causing a laugh even if it wasn’t in the script. Molly Dawson who also helped with costumes in the early days, and Mike Wallis who was one of our ‘Ugly Sisters’. Many people who have since moved away, some as far as the USA namely Anne & John Martin who both took part in our events. Bev Sewell, Pam & Glyn Bowen, Suzanne Brett, Gwenda Benstead, Angela Dixon, Sheena Harland and Jeanette Purcell are names that spring to mind but I know there were many others that you will remember, not least of all Tim Short who played a memorable Dame on many occasions and I understand still does so!  

We had some ‘accidents’ during our performances that the audiences did not always know about, such as the camp bed that collapsed in Goldilocks when Dave Norrie sat on it and the Aspidestra that was dropped from a great height during a scene change and had to be hurriedly swept up, that was in our first Cinderella .

The lines of a song that Gordon Hayes had difficulty remembering so he wrote them on the back of the beam, and then couldn’t read them because of the lighting, but his wife helped him out from the audience, Kathleen had heard them so often at home she was word perfect .

Do you remember our Growing Beanstalk in Jack and the Beanstalk, and the wonderful wigs in Cinderella as well as the ballgowns. The water fountain in Dick Whittington, which Dick didn’t expect to work, but it had been rigged.

We also had our chorous girls a group of girls mostly the daughters of the cast who sang and danced as fairies or soldiers etc.

We have also had a variety of changing arrangements, for the early performances we had the green curtains pulled round the kitchen corner and had to do everything in there — boys & girls together all very friendly The cast would run down the outside of the hall round the old boiler house that used to jut out, right round to the front of the building and in through the front emergency exit which was curtained off – you can imagine how cold it was on some December nights! We also had to be very quiet, especially on Saturday afternoons when all the children were there and were very inquisitive!

We then had the comfort of the football portacabin, which also meant running through all weathers into the emergency exit. That too was all very well when they were playing away, occasionally they were at home and then we used the Baptist schoolroom — an even longer run through rain and snow!

As many of you will know we were always well supplied in the changing rooms with ‘Dutch Courage’; Sometimes it was tea or coffee, but mostly it was a little stronger, it was the only way we could get some of our cast on stage!!

We tried not to leave out the most important member of the whole show that of the pianist, who was for many years Mrs Marjorie Rogers, The first couple of shows I believe were done by Mrs Betty Sillence, and latterly by David Farmer.

A few weeks after the show we always had an excuse for a party to hold an inquest on the performance and to vow that we wouldn’t do it next year, but we nearly always did and thoroughly enjoyed it for my part for fifteen years.

I was always greatly indebted to my typist who would read my long hand scribbled scripts and make sense of them, often as many as 22 pages, also of course the scenery painters and constructors, props and sound effects which always turned up in time for the performance even if they weren’t thought of until dress rehearsal!

Of course one of the highlights of the day for the children in the early years was the arrival of Father Christmas and the gifts that he brought them.

Joan Juland

Published in The Prattler – November 1995

Newspaper Cutting – Mother Goose 1995
Hey Diddle Diddle 1975
Hey Diddle Diddle 1975 – Cast
Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs 1978
Beauty and the Beast 1980 – Jeanette Purcell, Pauline Thackray, Chris Metcalfe, Marion Williamson
Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs 1984
Cinderella 1987

Nether Heyford’s Tradition of Pantomime – Continued…..December 2020

The Pantomimes continued…….

  • 1996 Snow White
  • 1997 Cinderella
  • 1998 Aladdin
  • 1999 Babes in the Wood
  • 2000 The Emperors New Clothes
  • 2001 Jack and the Beanstalk
  • 2002 Dick Whittington
  • 2003 Peter Pan
  • 2004 Cinderella
  • 2005 Snow White in the Palace

Thanks to Sheryl Scarrott and Pauline Thackray – December 2020

Letters: Thank you – Jane Harvey

Thank you

Jane and family would like to Thank you all for your messages of sympathy, support, kind gestures and flowers.

We deeply appreciate it at this sad time.

Howard would be very touched to see all the special messages that you have sent.

Sent on behalf of:

Jane Harvey
8 Hillside Rd
Nether Heyford

Lynda Eales (sister in law)

Published November Edition 2019