Heritage: Ilford’s pantomimes of the past
- Credit: photo: Arnaud Stephenson
We take a look at Ilford’s pantomimes of the past
The Ilford Hippodrome, which stood in Ilford Lane, was once a favourite haunt of many, and never more so than at Christmas.
The theatre staged its first pantomime, Dick Whittington, which opened on December 27 1909. The production was reviewed in Era, January 1910, and was for the most part highly praised.
Era wrote: "This evergreen story, admirably suited to pantomime, was splendidly produced on Monday afternoon, and has throughout the week drawn large and enthusiastic audiences.
"Under the personal supervision of Mr Dan Thomas, the story of London's first Mayor is excellently treated in 11 scenes of beautiful design and effect.
"The floral ballet of Scene IV, during 'Dick's Dream', performed by 20 local children, arranged by Mme Schmidt, was one of great beauty and grandeur, whilst in Scene XI, The Lord Mayor's Procession, the beauty of the performance was exquisite, including the smallest team of ponies in the world.
"The costumes were on an elaborate scale, brilliant and harmoniously blended, providing a rare continual feast for the eye."
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The following year the theatre put on a production of "Babes in the Wood" on Boxing Day, 1910, with Ally Benson playing Dame and Winnie Browne playing the swashbuckling hero listed in the script as "Bold Robin Hood".
Tickets sold like hot cakes, but the critical reception was a little more muted...
A review published in The Stage magazine in January 1911 read: "On the night of our visit the performance appeared to drag a little. The humour is of a harmless nature but wanting in originality. The musical numbers interspersed, though good, fail to go as they should. In the settings the grand finale is worthy of mention; the groupings and evolutions in this scene being also good. Miss Winnie Brown makes a dashing and gallant figure as the outlawed forester, Robin Hood and Maid Marian is prettily and daintily played."
Christmas 1912 and the New Year 1913 saw two separate pantomime productions: "Babes in the Wood" once more, which began playing the week of December 31, and"Cinderella" playing the following week.
The two shows were shared with the Kilburn Empire in an exchange programme and were both highly praised.