Monday, 16 May 2022

Players celebrate century of shows

Players celebrate century of shows

THE Henley Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society is celebrating 100 years of treading the boards — with ballroom dancing and knobbly knees

HAODS’ Studio Fringe Productions is delighted to present its latest annual dinner theatre with an extended run over two weekends, allowing for fewer tables and social

This year, in association with Samuel French, the show is Hi de Hi!

The Maplins holiday camp yellowcoats promise an evening of entertainment and hilarity, accompanied by a Fifties-themed dinner prepared and served by Stephen Luscombe, of the Golden Ball in Lower Assendon.

The menu comprises cauliflower and stilton soup, bangers and mash with caramelised onions and Spotted Dick (what else?) for pudding, with lashings of custard, of course.

Unlike in the Fifties, there is a vegetarian option.

Director Julie Huntington says the members of the audience will be greeted by yellowcoats as if they are entering Maplins holiday camp. The bar will be open and “the Hawaiian ballroom will feature heavily”.

Julie herself will play Gladys Pugh with Gareth Watkins as Jeffrey, Jenny Sakal as Peggy Ollerenshaw, Jake Willett as Spike Dixon, Kevin Gingell as Ted Bovis, and Sam Riley as Sylvia Garnsey. There’s even a comedy cameo appearance from Henley town councillor Glen Lambert.

Expect lots of riotous moments in this experience, which promises to be up close and personal, social distancing notwithstanding.

Julie says: “We’ve really gone to town on it.”

HAODS was founded in 1922 and its first production was The Mikado. The
society will be celebrating this milestone in the autumn with an updated production called Hot Mikado.

Previous productions have included Barnum,
and Chicago, which HAODS performed before it got to the West End.

A bestseller was Jack the Ripper, a musical.

“It sold like nobody’s business, so Henley obviously likes the macabre,” says Julie.

More recently it has been back to the laughs with ’Allo ’Allo, Blackadder and Are You Being Served?, which had a successful run just prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

There was then a gap of 18 months until the postponed Shrek finally made it to the Kenton in November.

Julie says: “We’re finding that audiences are really desperate to get back to the arts, to see things and enjoy actually being entertained again.

“I think it’s important for people’s mental health because there’s nothing better than a good laugh to get the endorphins going.”

So will there be more retakes on much-loved Eighties sitcoms?

Julie says: “We’ve got to rack our brains for another one for next year.”

Hi de Hi! is showing at the HAODS Studio, behind the Kenton Theatre, from Wednesday, to Saturday, February 16 to 19 and from Thursday to Saturday, February 24 to 26 with two matinées, on Sunday, February 20 and Saturday, February 26. Doors open for dinner at 6pm (1pm for matinées). All tickets, including a three-course meal, cost £32. For more information or to book tickets, call the box office on (01491) 525050 or visit

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