The Kenneth More Theatre (KMT), Ilford, is hosting its 37th pantomime: ″Jack and the Beanstalk″. Ilford has had an annual pantomime since the tradition started in 1975, with ″Dick Whittington″. Until recently the shows were written by theatre manager Vivyan Ellacott with help from his brother, Nigel. However, it’s all changed in 2011 as Steven Day, the present manager, has taken over from Vivyan.
The annual panto is always a happy event in Ilford as villains and heroes of all ages flock to join the ever-popular choruses of ″Oh yes it is″ and ″It’s behind you″. Many outstanding actors have appeared at the Ilford theatre including David Ian, who starred in ″Puss in Boots″, and Desmond Barritt, who appeared as a pantomime dame on two occasions. But the dame to beat all dames, Robert Quarry, has appeared in every panto since 1975 – an amazing record!
One of KMT’s popular traditions was started in 1995 by Councillor Ronnie Barden, then Mayor of Redbridge and Chairman of KMT’s board. Because the 1995 panto, ″Dick Whittington″, was about the Lord Mayor of London, Barden invited mayors from across the capital to see the show. Speaking to the ″Recorder″ at the time, he said “The Kenneth More is one of the jewels in the borough and I felt it would be ideal to put Redbridge on the map during my mayoralty. The tradition still continues.
The great news is that Ilford’s council officers have just agreed a new lease for the Ilford theatre, so the pantomime tradition looks set to continue for another 37 years.
″Jack and the Beanstalk″ will be showing until 22nd January and tickets can be obtained from the Box Office on 020 8553 4466.