Remembering Charles Vance

Charles Vance certainly made his mark on the Theatre World and launched the careers of many both on and off stage. With a passion for all he did and a pride in his work, we honour the late Charles Vance who during a career spanning over 40 years produced over 180 pantomimes.

“It's not that different from life darling, it's all one big pantomime!”

                                                                                  -Charles Vance

Charles Vance - December 6, 1929 -  January 13, 2012

Charles Vance, a self styled anarchronism and a leading champion of rep theatre giving  hundreds of actors, stage managers and designers their first opportunities in the world of the professional theatre. He enjoyed his role as the last of the old-time actor managers, often seen at first nights with a silver-topped cane, once owned by the redoubtable Victorian actor Henry Irving, and wearing a  green velvet jacket. There was always something raffish about Vance, who was proud of his origins as an Irish Jew, the son of a dealer in leather goods and the nephew of Harold Goldblatt, who founded the Ulster Group Players. At the age of seven, he was heard on BBC Radio’s Children’s Hour. At Queen’s University, Belfast,  where he read law, he joined its amateur dramatic club, which he found mediocre. He first appeared onstage at the city’s Grand Opera House. After university, he joined a theatre company

that toured Ireland with the plays of Shakespeare. There followed a spell at the Gate, in Dublin, which he described as “like going to heaven”.

After a prolific career as an actor, Vance launched his own production company in 1960 with his wife Imogen Moynihan, the daughter of the distinguished Liberal peer, the second Lord Moynihan. Their first production was Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, which was staged at the Empire Theatre, now the Little, in the Norfolk resort of Sheringham.

Their first full season followed a year later at the new Civic Theatre in Chelmsford. There were further seasons in Torquay, Cambridge, Eastbourne, Hastings, Weston-super-Mare, Whitby, Wolverhampton and at the Leas Pavilion, Folkestone, which Vance bought in 1976. In 1987, he instituted the Summer Play Festival at the Manor Pavilion, Sidmouth, which continued every year until last year, when seat prices forced him to abandon the enterprise.

A typical Sidmouth season was a clever mix of 13 plays, offering something for everyone, including two Rattigan plays – Vance knew the dramatist well – two Ayckbourns, Jane Eyre and Private Lives. Work by Francis Durbridge took the place of Agatha Christie after an international media production company took control of the latter author’s copyright. Throughout a career that lasted nearly 50 years, Vance mounted hundreds of touring productions, ranging from Stop the World –I Want to Get Off to The Merchant of Venice. He produced 180 pantomimes all over Britain, and in the latter part of his life he became known for his world premieres of stage adaptations of Ealing comedies, starting with Kind Hearts and Coronets in 1998.

As a publisher and editor, he founded the British Theatre Directory and was, uniquely, twice president of the Theatrical Management Association.

Charles Vance, who was born Charles Goldblatt on December 6, 1929, died on January 13 at the age of 83.

A selection of Charles Vance Pantomimes...

1975 Cinderella – Greenwood Theatre London

1979 Cinderella – Greenwood Theatre London

1979 Cinderella – Key Theatre Peterborough

1983 Cinderella - Gordon Craig Theare - Peter Byrne & Kathryn Apanowicz

1983 Cinderella - Orchard Theatre Dartford -  Wendy Richard, Dicki Henderson, Sand Toksvig

1984 Dick Whittington – Orchard Theatre Dartford - Barbara Windsor & Nicholas Parsons

1986 Dick Whittington – Beck Theatre Hayes - Barbara Windsor & Trevor Bannister

1987 Cinderella - Beck Theatre Hayes - Wendy Richard & Frank Carson

1992 Cinderella – Princess Theatre Torbay - Maggie Dence, Melissa Bell & Bernie Clifton

1993 Aladdin - Broadway Theatre Barking - Les Hill, Dennis Spencer, Roy Lance

1994 Dick Whittington – Princess Theatre Torquay - Lyn Paul and Paul Shane

1995 Cinderella - Princess Theatre Torquay - Jimmy Cricket and Juliette Kaplan

1996 Cinderella – Wyvern Theatre Swindon - Jess Conrad and Bernie Clifton

1996 Babes in the Wood - Beck Theatre Hayes  - Jill Greenacre, Bruce Montague, Juliette Kaplan

1997 Babes in the Wood – Wyvern Theatre Swindon -  Paul Leyshan, The Roly Polys & Hugo Myatt

1998 Jack and the Beanstalk – Wyvern Theatre Swindon -  Colin Baker with Rod, Jane & Freddy

1998 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – Beck Theatre Hayes - Kym Valentine
1998 Dick Whittington at Carlisle Sands Centre

1999 Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs – Wyvern Theatre Swindon - Jacinta Stapleton
1999 Aladdin – Beck Theatre Hayes -  Ian Rawlings

2000 Aladdin – Wyvern Theatre Swindon -  Aleetza Wood, Juliette Kaplan & Geoff Hinscliff
2000 Aladdin – Crewe Lyceum - Rod, Jane & Freddy and Hugo Myatt

2001 Cinderella – Wyvern Theatre Swindon - Bernie Clifton & Polyann Tanner
2001 Dick Whittington – Beck Theatre Hayes - Ryan Moloney & Hugo Myatt
2001 Cinderella – Lyceum Theatre Crewe - Keith Harris and Orville

2002 Dick Whittington – Wyvern Theatre Swindon - Geoffrey Hayes, Colin Baker & Hugo Myatt
2002 Dick Whittington – Crewe Lyceum - Bernie Clifton & Diane Youdale

2002 Cinderella - The Beck Theatre in Hayes - Bobby Crush, Ruth Carr, Rod, Jane & Freddy

2003 Goldilocks & The 3 Bears – Wyvern Theatre Swindon - Vicky Binns & Ross Davidson
2003 Jack and the Beanstalk – Crewe Lyceum -  Hugo Myatt

2004 Peter Pan – Crewe Lyceum - Ross Davidson, Tweedy & Alexis & Ruth Carr

2005 Aladdin – Crewe Lyceum - John Altman, Bobby Crush & Ruth Carr

2006 Cinderella – Crewe Lyceum - Leah Bracknell & Ruth Carr

2007 Beauty and the Beast – Crewe Lyceum - Craig Phillips & Lara Sacher

Memories of Charles Vance from Panto Archive founder Darren Chivers

I first met Charles in 1998, then just a marketing assistant at a venue where we were in the planning stages of that year's panto which was to be produced by Charles Vance Productions. Charles was a man who could dominate any room, as soon as he arrived he commanded your attention and he did not suffer fools gladly, he knew his profession inside out and expected those around them to be at the top of their game too. He was a very scary and intimidating man, until you got to know him a little! Then he was someone who would reel off tales of panto's past and the countless star names he had worked with, he was not one for holding back and speaking his mind about them either!