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Humpty Dumpty - 1886
The first and only pantomime at the new Theatre Royal in Longbrook Street, after it was built to replace the old Theatre Royal in Southernhay, was Humpty Dumpty in December 1886. In September 1887, the theatre was destroyed by fire, killing 186. This is therefore the only playbill for a pantomime at that theatre. The next pantomime was Jack and the Beanstalk, which opened in 1889 at the rebuilt Theatre Royal on the site of the burnt out theatre, and the first in Exeter to be lit by electricity.
Cinderella - 1909
A limited number of programmes were printed on silk to be given to the Mayor and the civic party when the pantomime opened on Mayoral Night. This example, from 1909, is for Cinderella when Henry Hugh Wippell was Mayor.
Humpty Dumpty - 1925
Based on the generic programme, the pantomime programme for 1925 had the addition of holly printed around the picture of the theatre and some festive bells at the bottom. This was the only time that Humpty Dumpty was performed at the rebuilt Theatre Royal. Printed by Burridge and Cannicutt, Exeter.
Babes in the Wood - 1934
The success of the duo-colour cover depended on the boldness if design in utilising the two colours. Here, the black and red work well on a yellow paper, along with a full colour insert. Produced five previous times, one as recently as 1929, it would have nine outings before the theatre closed.
Mother Hubbard - 1937
This duo-colour main cover, with full colour insert does not seem so special as the previous year. This was the first and only time Mother Hubbard was produced by the Theatre Royal.
Mother Goose - 1938
Less than a year, after the Theatre Royal performed Mother Goose in 1938, Britain would be at war. The programme cover is a kaleidoscope of colour and is arguably one of the most attractive covers produced by the theatre.This was not foresight, but rather it was the 50th anniversary of the Theatre Royal. Printed by Richmond Hill Printing Works, Bournemouth.
Aladdin - 1939
The 1939 production was Aladdin; this was the eighth time it was presented since 1888. It would be performed twice more before 1962, giving a total of ten performances. The programme is a shadow of the glorious colour the year before. Also,one page was devoted to advice to save petrol. Pantomime programmes from the war years are rare - if you have one, I would be grateful for a scan of the front cover.
Dick Whittington and his Cat - 1946
The first signs of better things to come are reflected in this colour programme cover for Dick Whittington in 1946. Although essentially green and black the programme is a break from the grim, generic austerity programmes of the war. Dick Whittington was first performed in1891 and then in 1895, 1907, 1910, 1921, 1930, 1935, 1941, 1946, 1953 and 1959, making it one of the most popular pantomimes put on by the Theatre Royal. The 1946 production had a cast of fifty and twelve beautiful scenes. Printed by W V Cole and Sons, Exeter.
Mother Goose - 1948
The privations of wartime austerity are fast disappearing with this full colour cover for the 1948 production of Mother Goose. A late entry in the Theatre Royal repertoire, it was first performed in 1914, then in 1932, 1938 and one last time in 1956. Printed by W V Cole and Sons, Exeter.
Robinson Crusoe - 1949
Robinson Crusoe had not been performed as a pantomime at the Theatre Royal since 1913, 36 years before. It was first performed in 1896 and again in 1904. It would be performed one last time in 1957 giving a total of five performances in 73 years. Printed by W V Cole and Sons, Exeter.
Jack in the Beanstalk - 1950
Jack in the Beanstalk was the first panto for the second half of the 20th Century. Jack in the Beanstalk was the first to be performed at the rebuilt Theatre Royal in1889; it was performed again in 1905, 1926, 1940, 1944 and 1955.
Aladdin - 1952
The programme cover for Aladdin, the Coronation Year pantomime – well, it completed its run in Coronation Year 1953. First performed in 1890, Aladdin appeared at the Theatre Royal in 1898, 1906, 1911, 1917, 1919, 1927, 1939, 1942 and 1952.
Cinderella - 1958 and 1947
A striking design, left, for the cover of the 1958 pantomime, which was a repeat of the 1947 design, right, Cinderella. Cinderella was produced by the theatre in 1899, 1908, 1916, 1922, 1928, 1936, 1943, 1947, 1954 and 1958 a total of 10 times. Left Printed by W J Delderfield and Sons, Exmouth and right by W V Cole and Sons, Exeter.
Ali Baba 1961
A stylish and simpler programme cover for the Theatre Royal's 73rd and last pantomime. The last time the theatre had staged Ali Baba was forty years previously. Printed by Bartlett & Son Ltd, Exeter.
As You Like It - October 1930
For many years, the Theatre Royal used a generic cover design for their programmes. This example from 1930 is for As You Like It starring Sir Frank Benson in his farewell tour. The next week was Murder on the Second Floor which had previously run at the Lyric Theatre for nine months. Printed by Burridge & Cannicott, Exeter.
Lilac Time 1935
A change of generic cover for the September 1935 musical play Lilac Time. It was previously staged at the Lyric Theatre. The next week, The Dominant Sex, a touring show which had been the outstanding Play of the Year after a run at the Aldwych Theatre was staged. Printed by the Devon and Exeter Gazette.
Anglo-Polish Ballet - June 1942
Less than a month after the 4th May blitz, the Anglo-Polish Ballet visited the Theatre Royal for a week. They performed Les Sylphides, Grand Divertissement, Dancing Woman and Pan Twardowski (Polish Faust). The program was a thin, folded, single page to save on paper – a new version of the generic cover was used, with the City of Exeter coat of arms. After many years at 3d, the price was reduced to 2d. Printed by The Northgate Press, North Street, Exeter.
Sadler's Wells Opera - Ballet - 1946
Another variation on the green and black on white paper programme from 1946, when the Sadler's Wells Opera-Ballet performed for a week in July. Their programme was Les Sylphides (music by Chopin), Assembly Ball (music by Bizet) and Facade (music by William Walton set to poems by Edith Sitwell). Printed by The Northgate Press, North Street, Exeter..
All Star Variety - 1954
By the 1950s, the Theatre Royal adopted this red, black on white generic cover. This show from 1954 featured the Dancing Belles, Glamour on a Unicycle and Comedy Acrobats Extraordinary among the acts. Printed by W J Delderfield Ltd.
Twinkle - 1962
The very last programme and show at the Theatre Royal before it was closed and demolished was Twinkle (the theatre closes). First devised in the 1920s by Clarkson Rose, the revue toured the seaside resorts during the summer months. Unfortunately, audiences were disappointing, and the last chance to save the theatre was lost. Printed by Bartlett and Son Ltd, Exeter.
With thanks to Dick Passmore for permission to include some additional programmes from his collection.
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