Original scripts, lyrics and music all bringing to life the rich history of Barnet Fair combined to provide a memorable production of "The Boy I Love" which delighted packed audiences at The Bull Theatre.


High Barnet’s amateur dramatic group, The Blue Door Theatre Company, spent most of the year devising and inventing story lines and scenarios to reproduce the gaiety and rough and tumble of what said to have been the noisiest and naughtiest fair in Victorian England.

Opening and closing the show was a tuneful joyous song, “Barnet Fair”, written by the theatre company’s director Siobhan Dunne and her husband Nick Godwin with music by Jo Collins, co-founder of the Chickenshed theatre group.

Ms Dunne, who produced “Fog of War”, a much-acclaimed play commemorating the 1471 Battle of Barnet, said that creating the latest production, “The Boy I love” had been a wonderful opportunity to write and produce a show that dramatized the life and times of the fair at the height of its popularity in the Victorian era.

In a brief appearance at the end of the final performance, she paid tribute to the warmth, generosity, and determination of the theatre company.

It had been inspirational to see how a group people, some of whom had “never stood on a stage before” came together, delivered a production and who could now say they “owned it”.

“We are so pleased so many of you came to see the show and celebrate what these guys have done – they gave a real demonstration of community theatre.”

Their aim had been to explore Barnet’s history through the characters who lived locally or who visited the fair and the audience were delighted by a storyline that connected with the Barnet of today – with references to a pint at The Mitre, whether there were rooms for the night at the Red Lion or a refreshing drink of water at what was then the newly-installed drinking fountain on Hadley Green.

For the choreographer Linda Foster, the challenge during the songs and dance routines performed by the Barnet Belles was to capture the movement, mannerisms, and gestures of the Victorian era.

The programme promised “A story of lost dreams, passion and deceit” and as events unfolded there was plenty of drama and suspense.

One prominent character was Tom Sayers (played by Anthony Nagle) who was an English bare-knuckle fighter back visiting the fair – and trying at the same time to untangle a complicated love life -- after making a name for himself in America.

Seen with him (from left to right) are William Kemp, owner of the site of Barnet Market (played by Francesco Giacon); boxer Tom Sayers; and General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, who lived in Hadley Wood (played by Bob Burstow).

Much of the drama revolved around two fictional characters, Charlotte and Edward Hyde (played by Claire Fisher and Peter Neville-Jackson), who are loosely based on Julia and Henry Hyde who lived in Monken Hadley and who entertained General Booth and his wife to lunch.

Their maid was Etta Dobbs (played by Teresa O’Sullivan, centre) who doubled up as one of the Barnet Belles.

Their repertoire of songs took the audience back in time, not least with the title song, “The Boy I love” (written and composed by George Ware).

In her thanks Ms Dunne paid tribute to the set and props designer Cos Gerolemou, who used recycled packaging to build a costermonger’s cart and a special thank you to Barnet Museum which had raided its archive of Barnet Fair photographs which were used as a backdrop on the stage.

She said that unfortunately the town had lost Barnet Fair in the current era, but it was incredibly popular in Victorian times.

The show’s narrator James Godwin, who wrote the “Fog of War”, reflected on the fair’s history which was captured in the final verse of the opening number, “Barnet Fair”:

“The world assembles to the north of the smoke at Barnet Fair.

To see horse racing and boxing folk at the noisiest fair.

To steal a kiss or a gentleman’s purse at the naughtiest fair.

The locals all say it’s a gift or a curse at Barnet fair.

At Barnet fair, at Barnet fair, at Barnet fair.”