Dodleston Youth Players are holding a Golden Jubilee celebration weekend and exhibition commemorating 50 years of pantomimes – oh no they’re not, oh yes they are!
On September 23 and 24 there will be a free exhibition in Dodleston Village Hall featuring photos, newspaper cuttings, costumes and props from over the years since the first ever panto, Aladdin, back in 1968.
A reunion party will be held on the Saturday in the village hall – where all productions are performed – with a warm welcome extended to any former or current adult members of the group which, despite its name, involves young and old.
On the Sunday afternoon there will be a picnic party in the hall for under 18s. And that evening there will be the first meeting for the Jubilee Panto 2018 where this year’s production will be revealed.
Over the decades pantos have ranged from Cinderella to Babes in the Wood to Jack and the Beanstalk to Dick Whittington and Treasure Island – to name just a few.
The group was originally established in 1963 by the late Charlie Smith when it was known as Dodleston Amateur Variety Company who produced a Christmas variety show. But the first panto came in 1968 in a production of Aladdin, whose cast members included group president Mike Salisbury as Widow Twanky.
Sue Ramsey, who is the chair of the society as well as producer and director, said: “Mike has been in it right from the word go. He’s written about 16 pantos.”
And she explained that Lila Harris, mother of the late ventriloquist Keith Harris, was the group’s first dance teacher. She recently celebrated her 100th birthday at sheltered housing in Poulton Le Fylde where she moved to be closer to her son and daugher-in-law and grandchildren.
Sue, a former teacher, who lives in Dodleston with husband Andrew, said: “It’s great for the village because we have people of all ages who mix together, learning skills both on stage and back stage and children who go to different schools to get to know each other.”
She said the children grow in confidence as they learn new skills like stage craft, singing and dancing and working together as a team. Several generations of one family would often have an involvement. Above all, the pantos were fun for both the performers and the audience.
Some young players kept up their interest as a hobby or took theatre studies at school while a few had gone on to work in professional theatre. Her own son Richard had become dancer with the Royal Ballet and was now a teacher. Her daughter Rebecca was a classical singer.
A review in The Chronicle said of the players’ version of Aladdin back in 1968: “This was the company’s first attempt at a pantomime and proved a great success, so much so that it attracted full houses on both nights.”
Sue wanted to say a big thank you to secretary and archivist Karen Welsh who had put in so much work into creating the exhibition.
For more details visit the 'Dodleston Youth Players Golden Jubilee' Facebook page.