The Ilmington Jubilee play Magic Moments at the Village Hall was the triumphant fulfilment of twelve month’s planning, research, writing, dramatic exploration, and rehearsals culminating in a joyous celebration commemorating the first 10 years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. The director of the project Colin Edwards conceived the idea with the aim of involving Ilmington residents in the staging of their memories, and dramatically depicting life as lived in the 1950s.
Thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the enterprise was able to draw on professional expertise from the village in play writing, music, design, choreography and lighting. Together with an acting company of forty three ranging in age from 3 months (yes, there was a baby!) to eighty plus -many of whom had never performed on stage before - they created an original, memorable and moving theatrical event.
Magic Moments, Mark Currey’s play, centres on the everyday life of a family and in particular the daughter, Elsie, who meets her future husband at the weekly Saturday night dance in the village hall. The story is told by young Elsie’s older self, looking back sixty years. Cleverly absorbed into the text are true reminiscences of older villagers and Fifties news events; with an abundance of music from radio signature tunes, children’s songs, ballads, regular dance music to the boisterous intervention of ‘Rock Around the Clock’, which exploded joyously onto the stage and was followed by a series of gloriously sung period hit songs that tunefully underscored the rest of the show’s many poignant and telling vignettes.
The action of the play takes place against a giant backdrop of blown-up black and white and coloured Fifties photographs of local faces. Scenes included the death of King George VI, told whilst packing a grocery box; the hard work of washday staged with a practical clothes line of washing; getting ready for the Saturday night dance simply indicated through imaginary mirrors; and a lecture on why mothers and wives should not go out to work, that a woman’s place is in the home. The funniest scene of all was when a young boy, alone on stage, offers a copy of a shiny Country Life magazine, to an overly fat man (not seen) sitting on the garden privy without access to the hoped for more absorbent paper, had us all in fits.
The show was full of so many good things, but for me the particular highlights were a series of scenes between two middle aged men on their allotment, humorously commenting on sport, politics, social changes and the growing impact of the motor car.
Also the Coronation scene with almost the whole company, packed together, their eyes focused, watching the ceremony on one small screen of an imaginary television set with the original archive of the Coronation playing in the background. Then the village summer charabanc expedition, with its songs and jokes followed by a spectacularly staged donkey race on the sands of Weston Super Mare.
The finale saw the company singing Michael Holliday’s hit “The Story of My Life” followed by the National Anthem. It was a most fitting and moving climax to a series of encapsulated moments of a shared history, in a most telling and, at times, quite brilliant impressionistic staging of the Fifties.
Afterwards, many of the audience who had lived through the period found themselves talking of their own common experiences: going to school, buying sweets (the names of which have long since disappeared), learning to dance, falling in love, going to the pictures, sledging in the dark, or just being alive were all vividly realised throughout the show, making the ordinary, extraordinary.
The above is only an indication of a full rich evening and we are sorry that this review appears too late to encourage you to see it. It will remain long in the memories of all those who did.
The Stratford Herald