Photograph and Report of the Headley Theatre Club's Victorian Music Hall, September 1973

Report by Jo Fisher:

A stranger to Headley entering the village hall last Saturday evening could have been excused for believing he had been transported back through time to the last century, for enjoying the festive atmosphere inside were about 100 people in Victorian costume enjoying an authentic Victorian Music Hall.
The evening had been arranged by the Headley Theatre Club and all proceeds will be donated to the village hall fund. The audience had been invited to dress appropriately and everyone seemed to have unearthed at least one garment from the period.
In the candlelight one could make out bustles, lace collars, velvet collars, and some very low necklines. The men had produced some magnificent whiskers, frock coats, and top hats.
Master of Ceremonies was Larry Armstrong who astounded the audience with his comprehensive vocabulary. He was magnificent in the role and kept the boisterous audience under control with his gavel. His lengthy and amusing introductions for each act were greeted by shouts, jeers, and hisses from the audience and it was difficult to know who enjoyed themselves most - the performers or the audience.
The entertainment began with several renderings from a Barber's shop Quartet, singing in harmony, consisting of David Bryan, Ray Pascoe, Stan Sharp, and Anthony Page. One of the songs 'Genevieve' was a sad love story and the name part was played by Lesley Wightman. Merle Richardson played piano to accompany all the singing.
After a light-hearted beginning Phil Brewster, Helen Pavey, Eileen Callaghan and Sheila Green recited a well known Victorian poem, 'My Mother'. Although meant in a serious vein, the audience even found this amusing and the applause was mixed with roars of laughter.
Stan Sharp returned to the stage to read two monologues, 'My Village' and 'Ticket of Leave'. Both were lengthy and although Stan read and showed expression well, the second was somewhat complicated and in parts difficult to follow.
Following this, Katie Warner soon had the audience joining in well known songs such as 'My Grandfather's Clock' and 'The Second Minuet'.
At this point in the proceedings there was an interval during which Larry Armstrong invited members of the audience to "show off their talents." There were several volunteers, and the audience enjoyed some impromptu singing and verse from two very well-dressed Victorians.
The longest single entertainment was a melodrama, 'Unhand me, Squire', produced by Marie Bryan. Like most melodramas, the story was about a wicked squire trying to acquire a young maiden from the village. After other attempts proved useless, he foreclosed the mortgage on the house of the young girl's parents, but as expected, all ended well. The squire was always greeted with boos from the audience and the young hero, with cheers, and there was much fainting away by the young maiden. The squire eventually dispensed with his large moustache after many vain attempts to keep it adhered to his top lip and thereafter had to twirl an imaginary one.
Taking part were Rie Gerstel (narrator), Celie Haydon (Fanny, the young maiden), John Carnac (Squire), Anthony Page (Percival, the hero), Phil Smith and John Boxall (Fanny's parents) and Phil Brewster, Eileen Callaghan, Helen Pavey and Sheila Green, who were described as "four matrons dancing round the maypole."
A Victorian supper of sausages, baked potatoes and pease pudding was served. A competition for the best-dressed Victorians was judged by Mr Brian Witham, Chairman of the Village Hall Trustees, Mr Hall, a Trustee, and Miss Hilary Parkinson, an independent judge.
John Ellis won the man's prize of a bottle of wine. He was authentic in every detail, right down to long side whiskers. Mrs Joyce Stevens won the women's prize of a box of chocolates. She was wearing a long pink and white dress with low neck, bustle, and long white gloves. A special additional prize was given to young Adrian Carnac, as Oliver Twist.
The evening concluded with community singing led by Helen Pavey, magnificently attired in very low cut emerald green velvet dress, high coral boots, and garters.
After a most entertaining and enjoyable evening Mr Witham expressed the very grateful thanks of the Village Hall Trustees to the Theatre Club.


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