So proud of Pepper pedigree as charity shows reach the end of an era

There will be tears when the curtain comes down on 25 years of Pepper performances on Saturday night – but the team behind the moneyspinning charity shows will have more than a peck of pride in what they have achieved.

The annual shows can’t continue in their traditional form after this year because of venue restrictions, although the team behind the production is hard at work on developing a new format to make sure Pepper retains its place in Dacorum’s musical calendar.

Pepper Fusion musicians

Pepper Fusion musicians

At the centre of this year’s shows are joint musical directors Robert Breakwell and Katie Ayres, directors Kath Paterson and Jackie Chambers and performance director Tom Billington.

Along with show producer Linda Horsfall they started work on the 2013 show back in November, deciding on a ‘best of British’ theme.

Refinements were made to the initial song list based on the particular strengths of performers who auditioned in January.

Kath said: “We decided to highlight the geographical location of the song or the original performer using a map on stage and to lead into the finale with a street party – this being our silver jubilee!”

Then came the tricky task of determining the running order, balancing upbeat and slow rhythm numbers and taking other factors into account, such as costume changes and the need to get younger members of the cast home within statutory limits.

Some songs in the show have featured in years gone by, but many others feature for the first time.

“While songs have been repeated, we try to avoid too much repetition because there is so much good music out there,” Kath said.

“While there is little doubt in my mind that Pepper shows in future years will be exciting and vibrant, everyone involved wants to ensure that the last performance in the Berkhamsted School Theatre is as good as it can possibly be.

“For those who, like me, expect this to be their last hurrah there will clearly be an element of sadness when the last night of this year’s show ends – as well as relief, of course, if it all comes off well!”

Kath has been associated with the Pepper team since the very start. In the first show she directed the number performed by Berkhamsted Youth Theatre before she set up Pepper Youth and then stepped up to key directing duties in 1999.

And she’s not the only once who has been with Pepper from the start.

She said: “This year the show, as far as adults are concerned, mainly features cast and crew from previous years but there are three instrumentalists, two singers and two crew members who are in the show for the first time.

“A large number of the Pepper Youth contingent will be in their first show.

“But there there are some in this 25th show who were involved in the very first Pepper Show in 1989.

“Ted Carroll, Ian Smith and Roland Walker were instrumentalists as was Alistair Hodgson, who will perform this year with Mr Kite’s Benefit Band which was set up by performers from Pepper shows and who have themselves raised considerable sums for the Pepper Foundation over the years. Richard Hollinshead was in charge of lighting, Amy Billington, Lucy Hodgins and Sarah Pollard were in the Berkhamsted Youth Theatre number, Linda Horsfall was also involved and Robert Breakwell was musical director and moving spirit behind the whole event.”

Pepper Shows have always been about having fun while making money for a very good cause.

Kath is particularly proud of the role young people have played over the last 25 years.

She said: “They have experienced what it’s like to be in such a show and hopefully will have enhanced self-esteem as a result.

“A considerable number have gone on to careers in the performing arts.”

There are still some tickets left for tonight’s show and tomorrow’s performance –there’s a box office at Berkhamsted’s Acorn Pharmacy, buy online at www.peppershow.com or call 01442 877292