In Christmas 1917 the indefatigable 85th Field Ambulance took to the stage again with their third and final pantomime of the campaign – Bluebeard. This is what 2nd Lt Frank Kenchington, RFA, had to say about it in his introduction to Music from Macedonia by Charles H B Jacques, published after the war.
Yet another year was spent in the same surroundings [Struma Valley]. A certain amount of desultory fighting took place. Day by day mules came up with the rations. Men went down with the fever. A few lucky ones went home on leave. But life as a whole seemed as fixed and immutable as the frowning Belashitza range across the valley. The same tortoises crawled leisurely across the same open spaces. The days moved by just as slowly. In the summer the Division [28th] moved back to the hills to get out of the malaria zone, but Christmas 1917 saw them back once again in the vicinity of the Kopriva Palace Theatre, which was accordingly re-opened and fitted up in the most sumptuous style for the production of “Bluebeard”. This play was executed on a far more magnificent scale than either of the others. Costumes were obtained direct from London. The orchestra was much enlarged, and musical instruments were purchased. Borrowed songs occupied quite a minor place in the production. “Dick Whittington” and “Aladdin” endeavoured to extract humour from the life and surroundings of the troops in France and Greece. In “Bluebeard” an attempt was made to leave the Army alone and seek relief in scenes set in the English countryside.
Find out more
- Panto season on the Eastern Front (Wellcome Library blog 2014)
- The House that Tommy Built ‘somewhere in Greece’: pantomimes produced by the 85th Field Ambulance in Salonika 1915-18 by Martina Lipton, University of Queensland (pdf)
- Bluebeard: a pantomime by members of the 28th Division, produced in Macedonia, Christmas 1917 (Wellcome Library)