Ipswich Scout and Guide Gang Show turns 80
PUBLISHED: 13:23 11 April 2018 | UPDATED: 15:52 12 April 2018
Happy birthday to the Ipswich Scout and Guide Gang Show, which turned 80 this week.
The first show took place in 1938 after being inspired by the famous London Gang Show directed by Ralph Reader, a leading director of many famous London stage shows.
Written and produced by Harold Reeves Hansford, a member of the 17th Ipswich Scout Group, and called March Hares it was performed at the Ipswich Public Hall - filling all 800 seats over the four-night run.
Quickly followed by More March Hares in 1939, shows were interupted by the Second World War then resurrected in 1945 as the Gang Show, running annually ever since.
The show had an all-male cast until 1969, one year before London welcomed girls. Since them members of the Guide movement have been an important part of the show on stage and behind the scenes. This year’s 70-strong gang includes Scouts, Guides, Brownies, Rainbows, Explorers and Rangers from in and around Ipswich.
Previous homes have included the Museum Street Art Gallery before it became the first amateur show to take the stage of the Corn Exchange. For the last few years the show has taken place at the Great School Theatre.
“We’re one of the oldest shows in the country. You don’t imagine it lasting so long the first time you do it, you just enjoy the show. Now you think ‘well, let’s aim for 100 years’,” said Keith Smith, the show’s producer, who started as a 13-year-old.
A Scout since he was 13, he spent many years onstage, meeting his future wife during one show.
“There are a lot of families in the show, mine have all been in it. It’s really worthwhile. Youngsters go away from here with so much more confidence.”
Combining singing, dancing and combedy it remains true to its roots; sticking to the traditional format with a couple of items to mark the anniversary like the opening 80 Years of Memories, Here’s Where it all Began and the old Gang Show favourite Freedom alongside contemporary numbers.
Standouts for me was the Hallelujah Chorus, “sung” by the Silent Monks. It was an amazing feat - in some people’s case feet - of choreography and timing.
The Jai Ho dance number was disturbingly alluring - you’ll know what I mean when you see it - and the brief comedy twist midway through was genius. The Cat and Dog Diary and Blind Date skits were funny and clever.
Dance routine Everyday I’m Shufflin’ was slick and the effects impressive.
The Take That medley which opened the second half reminded me how many great songs the group has. I liked the stand and sing throwback to the Kids From Fame hit Starmarker and the harmonies in the Here Come The Girls number were sublime.
I challenge anybody not to ooh or aah during the pirate-themed mini-gang section; which has a great equality message and a cracking joke towards the end.
All in all, a fun show that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
See the Gang Show, April 11-14, 7.15pm nightly with a 2.15pm matinee Saturday. Tickets, £9.50 with concessions for senior citizens and under 16s, are available from 01473 561004, www.ipswichgangshow.org.uk and Craftability, St Lawrence Street, Ipswich.
A dinner dance is being held at Trinity Park, September 1, for anybody connected with the show over the past 80 years. Email Gangshow80@outlook.com for more details.