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Treasure 26: Sweet Red Riding Hood, His Majesty's Theatre, 1906

Historic Documents
Léa Moreau
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Historic Documents Details
Monday 3 December 1906, 7.30pm. His Majesty's Theatre opens its doors to a brilliant audience and a grand production of the pantomime "Red Riding Hood". Our month's treasure features the pantomime's "Book of Words" printed to promote the event. Few things have been more intimately associated with Christmas than the popular family entertainment known by the name of pantomime.

The word, borrowing of Latin pantomimus (mime, dancer) and coming from the Greek pantóminos ("imitator of all") took the meaning of a drama or play performed without words at the beginning of the 18th Century. Later traditionally performed at Christmas, it incorporates colourful costumes, slapstick comedy, songs and audience participation...

Plots of pantomimes include a number of stock character types: the "principal boy" (the central young male figure, who is sometimes played by a female actor), the "pantomime dame" (always played by a male actor in drag), the villain and other comic characters. In "Sweet Red Riding Hood" at His Majesty's Theatre in 1906, loud calls were directed at the players; Miss Lyuba Lova, a reportedly fascinating Red Riding Hood, Miss Winifried Harbord as Boy Blue and Mr Willie Garvey who made a most amusing Mother Hubbard.

By selecting "Red Riding Hood" for the opening pantomime, the director of His Majesty Theatre, Mr Robert Arthur, made a happy hit as the traditional children's story attracted many people, young and old. Because it was a pantomime, the legend got almost lost in the musical and operatic melange but the performance was well applauded by both the public and the press. The pantomime, written by Frank Dix and composed by Jullien H. Wilson, was divided into two acts - the first in four scenes and the second in five scenes. The "Book of Words" contains the script, photographs of the actors and some local adverts.

For the first two nights of the pantomime, bookings were reserved for Debenture and Preference shareholders only, of which there were a considerable number, as nearly all the money for the new building has been raised locally. The pantomime, which ran till the end of the year, was greeted with whole-hearted applause from start to finish.
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