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THIRTY years after performing
their first pantomime in
Aberystwyth, The Wardens are still
going strong, bringing traditional
fun, slapstick and music to its
The Wardens' pantomime is, and
always has been, a great example
of town-and-gown collaboration,
bringing together students and
locals to perform. And this yeas
pantomime, Aladdin, which
runs until Saturday,19 January,
continues that tradition.
It all began in 1983 when the
Wardens'first pantomime,Jack and
the Beanstalk, won rave reviews.
The Cambrian News called it "a
pantomime professionals could be
proud of".
It was directed by Richard
Cheshire, with choreography by
Anna Delany, and musical direction
by Aneurin Huws,star of many
television shows,including Pobol
y Cwm.Since then, The Wardens
has proved a great training ground
for a succession of performers and
behind-the-scenes workers.
Stalwarts of the Wardens include
Sonia Dobson,Roy and Sue Leett,
John Corfield, Theresa Jones and
Ioan Guile, who, along with Richard
Cheshire, has become well-known
for his performances as the dame.
Theresa Jones, who has-been
treasurer of the Wardens for
many years, appeared in the
first pantomime as one of the
Brokers Men. She has often played
"principal boy', and plays Queen
Nefertiti in this year's Aladdin.
She said:"The best part of being
in panto all these years is working
with young people and watching
them go on to have successful
careers in theatre.I also like seeing
parents, who as children came to
see our pantomimes,now bringing
their own children to see it."
Ioan Guile takes to the stage as the
Emperor in this year's Aladdin, and
he can't believe the performance
will mark 30 years of panto.
He said:"It doesrit seem like
30 years! The Christmas period
wouldn't be the same without the
fun and excitement of working
towards the panto. And working .
with so many different students,
and people from the local
community,has kept it fresh and
As well as the annual pantomime,
The Wardens are also renowned
for their other productions. In
recent years they have produced
The Adventures ofMr Toad at Arad
Goch - a play with music based on
The Wind in the Willows-(see picture
above), Moll Flanders the Musical,
based on Daniel Defoe's classic
novel, The Boyfriend at Ceredigion
Museum and Nicholas Nickleby Parts One and Two at the Morlan
Centre. And once the pantomime
has finished, work will begin on
their next production, Calendar Giris,
to be performed at Aberystwyth
Arts Centre in May.
Of this years pantomime,
Wardens' chairperson,Julie
McNicholls said: "This is the
fourth lime that the company
has performed Aladdin. The first
time was in 1984, and further
productions followed in 1994 and
2003. A Wardens' panto is often a
child's first experience of theatre,
with hundreds coming to see the
show every year. Children also have
the chance to appear in the show,
with auditions for very young
children and teenagers taking place
in the autumn.
'All of the Wardens pantomimes
have been in T'heatr y Werin, at
Aberystwyth Arts Centre, with the
exception of Puss in Boots, in 1999,
which was in the Great Hall while
the main theatre space was being
The Wardens Amateur Dramatic
Society started in 1944, and was
formed by Air Raid Wardens during
the Second World War,hence the
name.It was setup to read plays,
and pass the time during wartime
blackouts.'The first production was
The Private Secretary, a comedy by
Charles Hawtrey, performed on 23
.Performed in aid of the
Llanbadarn Fawr Welcome Home
Fund for returning soldiers, the
Wardens first took to the stage in
Llanbadarn Fawr Church Hall. The
show successful that they
went "on tour° - to the former Kings
Hall theatre on Aberystwyth's
seafront venue.
Combining their duties of
protecting Aberystwyth from the
threat of enemy bombers with.their
theatrical aspirations, the hardy
group could not have anticipated
the legacy of firstclass theatre it
would leave the town.
In the 1960s/70s, the Wardens
became lrnown as the Aberystwyth
Players. But in October 1979,
the group re-constituted as the
Aberystwyth Wardens Dramatic
Society. The following year it
produced its first play, The Happy
Apple, before tackling a musical, The
Boyfviend, in 1981. It sold to packed
When the Wardens met Richard
Cheshire in 1982 to discuss
performing a pantomime the
following year, it was intended to
be a one-off. But it was such a huge
success that it went on to become an
annual event.
Richard Cheshire, director of all
the Wardens' pantomimes, said: "It
is a great privilege and pleasure to
be asked by the Wardens to lead this
pantomime company for 30 years.
"The team combines almost 100
professional and talented members
of the community interested in the
performing arts.
"Members are drawn from all
walks of life, including Aberystwyth
University, local businesses and
organisations, Coleg Ceredigion,
Aberystwyth Arts Centre and local
school children from the mid Wales
area — a true `eclectic' mix of'town
and gown'!
"I'd like to thank everyone who
has helped make the Wardens'
pantomime such an important
and unique part of the annual
community festivities.
"To be voted the best pantomime
in Wales by the Western Mail is a
true recognition of its standing and
an achievement for the people of
mid Wales. Long may it continue —
Oh yes it will!"
Performance details for Aladdin:
Wednesday,9 - Friday,ll January
(7.30pm);Saturday, 12(11am,
2.30pm and 7.30pm);Sunday,l3
(fpm and 4.30pm); Wednesday,l6
- Friday, l8(7.30pm) and Saturday,
19(11am,2.30pm and 7.30pm).
It's a special year for Aberystwyth theatre company The Wardens,as they celebrate
an impressive three decades of performing pantos. NORMAN WILLIAMS finds out more...
Local youngsters,Sam
Ebenezer and Bethan
Pearce, star in this year's
show as Aladdin and
Princess Jasmine