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Prince Marzipan (Will Meade)
(Penshurst Dramatic Society)
January 5 – 12: Village Hall, Penshurst, Kent

(Information above on performance dates is derived from newspaper archives and is therefore likely to be incomplete.)


Penshurst has been the pioneer in many movements. Its Dramatic Society has been recognised as one of the most successful organisations associated with the Village Drama Society.

Its latest effort is an entirely local pantomime. Written by Mr Will Meade, the village saddler, it is a topical, lively play, and fully justified its description as “a comedy of absurdities, incongruities and anachronisms.” In short, “Prince Marzipan” is a sweet, wholesome tit-bit. First and foremost, the play is a triumph for Mr Will Meade. Even if the advent of the motor has rendered the calling of a saddler well-nigh unnecessary. it has served the public interest in providing Mr Meade leisure to write the simple, amusing poetry and the well-worded songs. It should at once be pointed out, however, that the author is allowing the work to be performed on this occasion without fee.

Mr Arthur Izzard, the producer, is also to be congratulated. He will be remembered as John Kemp, the steward, in the Falrlawne Pageant last year. The pantomime has been written, composed, produced, performed and costumed entirely by Penshurst people. So far as the cast of 40 performers is concerned, all were bona-fide villagers—many of them born in Penshurst. Every class and interest, and practically every occupation in the village was represented. This united effort of the Penshurst population resulted in a great success.

The story of the pantomime is too long to tell in detail, but briefly, it is that Prince Marzipan, betrothed to Neatun, is found by fairies in wood and changed into Avigdor; is adopted by the Woodwardens, beguiled by a Witch, but released in return for Myra, although not until he has been bereft of memory. The spell of the Witch produces a hump on Myra’s back, but the Witch declares that this will disappear when she marries the man she loves. This is realised when the Prince declares Myra as his dream-girl. The King and Queen of Nougah are happy in the return of their son, and the disappointed Sheeza is matched with Lord Ammy, and so secures the Coronet which she so eagerly sought.

The antics of the King’s Jester, the Constables, the treatment of the King by the Doctor and the Parish Nurse, and the gaudy display by the family of Newby de Riche, are amusing incidents in the play.

In the Prologue, recited with taste and intelligence by Miss H. Hills, the audience is told that the object of the piece is "to make you laugh.” The pantomime certainly achieves its object in this respect. The audience, from the peerage to the poorest, laughed again and again at the witticisms and clever banter which Mr Meade introduced with subtlety and aptness. If the writer has produced a clever “book of words” it must also be conceded that Mr Izzard, the producer, has succeeded in selecting his cast with the greatest care and wisdom. It is not unlikely that Mr Meade even had in his mind certain of his neighbours to fill the various roles as he wrote his lines.

Miss Betty Turner’s “Prince” was a creditable performance. She has already won success in previous plays of the Penshurst Dramatic Society. With plenty of assurance, well dressed, a good voice and attractive manner, she can sing as well as she can act. Her first song, “Come, ye sweet fairies,” is given in pleasing style, and later, with Myra, she is heard in the duet, “The island where day-dreams come true.” Miss Margaret Constable is the haughty, domineering scheming Sheeza Neatun. With  fine presence, she puts the whole force of her 6ft 2in. frame into her action and songs. Here is a cultured voice of considerable strength, and “If I were King” was well rendered.

Miss J. Edwards is a dainty Fairy Queen, with illuminated crown and wand, and Miss E. Wickens plays Avigdor, the changeling. Mr. Arthur lzzard's Meg, the Witch, is a clever representation. He looks and acts with voice and gesture the old hag who prepares hell-broth, and is as cunning and devilish as the more ancient variety of witches which prowled the forest before the coming of the Daily Wail or the Trade Unions which standardised wages for pages. Myra, whether in the Witch’s hut or in the King’s Palace, plays with a remarkable simplicity and naturalness, and, though not strong, she has a sweet musical voice.

Little Master P. Ford is the “Cat,” which licks the hand of the old Witch and wanders with uncanny realism round the stage. He is a great favourite with the children of the audience. Mr W. Chapman’s Lord Ammy is a skilful delineation of the typical Courtier.

The King and Queen of Nougah were represented by Mr L. Izzard and Miss C. Lambert. His Majesty, whose crown requires constantly setting right by his consort, is a friendly monarch, and does not disdain to sing to his Court a song with a chorus, “Hey, Nonny, Nonny, O.” The Queen fills her throne with a certain rustic dignity, but the true inwardness of Prohibition seems at first to baffle her.

There is good scope for the inevitable clown in the pantomime, and Mr J. Stubblngs, as the King’s Jester, takes full advantage of his opportunities. The frequency of the “regulation step” of the Constables, Sheerluck and Watson (Mr H. Chapman and Mr H. Skinner) causes roars of laughter. The Woodwardens (Mr J. Skinner and Mr Coulstock) have little to do, and do that little well. Mr E. Goater also has a small part—as Warder.

Mr A. Minturn is Dr Quantum Buff, who administers to the suffering King a pill, looking suspiciously like real marzipan, but leaves his stethoscope "outside the door.” On being fetched, however, it looks curiously like a gramophone horn. Mr W. Stapley makes up as a realistic Parish Nurse.

The Newly de Riche are an amusing family, who live up to their name. Mr W. Kite, “father” shakes hands vigorously with the King when he goes to Court, and Mrs A. Minturn, “mother,” is addicted to complexion lotion. The two daughters, Jemina (Mrs W. Kyte) and Julia (Mrs H. Chapman) worry their poor parents frantically about their grammar, and are obviously jealous of the Continental education of their younger sister, Myra. But they are eventually mated with the erstwhile Woodwardens, since knighted.

The Courtiers were composed of Mesdames S. Lord, D. Horton, C. Stubbings, D. Stubbings, Messrs. L. Goater, S. Wiles, E. Cheesmore and F. Fenner. The juveniles, who all deport themselves well, were: —Fairies: E. Minturn, V. Stacey, R. Kyte. P. Riddel, J. Driscoll. Elves: P. Lambert. E. Hopkins, B. Sellings, H. Lord and “Ginger” Meade.

Miss Hill, in the Epilogue, sums up the moral of the pantomime, "Marry for love alone,” in a few well-spoken lines. The final tableau was very effectively staged.

The music was specially composed by Mr Reginald E. Groves, late organist of Penshurst Church, and he also gave his services without fee. A small String Orchestra was arranged by Mrs Gordon Goodwin, but sudden illness prevented her participating in the pantomime, and her cello was greatly missed. The music was supplied by Mrs Mason (piano) and Miss Ursula Hills and Miss Dorothy Waters (violins).

Various workers “behind the scenes” contributed in no small measure to the success of the show. Mrs Dudley Brown and Mr Morgan were useful in the “make-up” line; Mr Leo Lambert painted special scenery, and in the manipulation properties and lighting, Messrs. S. Constable and C. Baker rendered assistance. Miss K. Lambert was a competent “mistress of the wardrobe,” and designed and made many of the excellent costumes which graced the stage. The children particularly were charmingly dressed, and the dances were prettily executed.

The initial performance on Saturday afternoon in the Village Hall was given before a full house, and there was no lack of applause. The persistent calls for author brought Mr Meade from his seat below the footlights on to the stage. In a few words of thanks, he said he had perhaps been bold to venture into a realm where another William was supposed to be King. The Society, he said, deserved credit for the way they had helped him through many difficulties, and he was rewarded if his efforts had pleased his auditors.

In the evening there was another large audience, which included the Viscount and Viscountess Hardinge and other leading residents; while another enthusiastic attendance, including several from surrounding towns and villages, witnessed Wednesday night’s performance.

The proceeds go to the Master-Saddlers’ Association and the Village Hall Repairs and Lighting Fund.

Tomorrow (Saturday) at 7.30 the last performance will be given. Late buses will return to Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge and other places. Seats may be booked by phone. Ring up 20 Penshurst.

Kent & Sussex Courier, Friday 11 January 1924
found at www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Image © Local World Limited

Image reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)

found at http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0001068/19240111/236/0014