From the Archives: Pantomimes

POST BY RSomerset

Title page and photo of the company

While looking into a research enquiry recently I discovered pantomime plays written by Fr Bernard Basset SJ (1909-1988) with music by Fr John Delahunty SJ (1907-1992). In the 1940s, Stella Maris published some of Bernard Bassett’s pantomimes including Aladdin, Robinson Crusoe and Cinderella, but more fascinating are the two bound librettos located in the ArchiveAt the time these pantomimes were written they were both studying philosophy at Heythrop (1931-1934).  

The first is ‘Robinson Crusoe : A pantomime in three acts’ from 1932 and Basset is listed among the cast in the role of Fairy Godmother. 

Extract from pantomime including a photograph of three actors one in fairy godmother costume


The second volume is ‘Aladdin and the wonderful lamp: a pantomime in three acts’, 1934. Both librettos are illustrated with photographs of the performance at Heythrop and have also been autographed on the first page with what is presumably the cast and crew.

Praise for the creative talents of Basset and Delahunty is to be found in their obituaries and extracts of these are included here of each respectively:

Bernard arrived at Heythrop when the traditional Christmas entertainment of Gilbert & Sullivan was wearing thin:…No need for me to dewll on the brilliant way in which he introduced in his pantomimes something very English to a very cosmopolitan audience and with such an impact of immediate success. The glorious tunes composed by John Delahunty, and the topicality of the verses, formed an irresistible combination.(L&N,89,226)

His time at Heythrop is remembered for his musical scores for Bernard Basset’s pantomime scripts.
… His success at Heythrop with pantomime lyrics is well known. But he kept up his interest in serious music.
…we went to Heythrop and it was there that John’s talent was apparent. Bernard Basset wrote popular songs and John wrote the music. He had great ability to write melodies which fitted the words of BB. The two of them provided Christmas pantomimes-Robinson Crusoe and the Aladdin…They were successful but it was the catchy tunes which made the show.

Rebecca Volk