Jasper Maskelyne's first acting performance - as Robin Hood!
As a teenager, Jasper wanted to become a farmer. A life on stage as a magician, following in the footsteps of his grandfather and father was not on the cards.
The event which altered Jasper’s direction in life, was an amateur production of Babes in the Wood in Christmas 1922.
It was being put on by the Roydon Amateur Dramatic and Operatic Society, in Roydon village on the edge of the Epping Forest.
Following the aptitude for mechanical matters of his granther and father, Jasper became interested in electricity in his late teens. Wanting to help out the production, he boldly put himself forward to rig the lighting for the show, which was to be performed in the village hall.
Having done this, he volunteered, or was roped in, to join the cast; securing the role of Robin Hood.
In White Magic (a biography/autobiography of the Maskelyne magic dynasty), Jasper wrote that he stepped in to replace an actor who was struggling with the part during rehearsals. Another take, could be that the director saw the publicity value of having a member of the famous Maskelyne dynasty in the show.
By Jasper’s own account he “made rather a good job of it,” with the production receiving favourable mentions in the local press. These were picked up by The Daily Mirror, a London-based daily newspaper.
Naturally, Nevil Maskelyne (Jasper's father) went to visit the show, to see his youngest boy act on stage for the first time. He was, apparently, sufficiently impressed to invite Jasper to come and join him in the family's theatre at St. George’s Hall, to become a magician and carry on the Maskelyne dynasty.
Jasper later wrote:
“And this was how I came to ‘go on the stage’ as a profession. I have never regretted it.”
This change of heart was quite a reversal, for when Jasper left school a few years earlier, Nevil apparently told his son, “I am afraid you will never be a wizard like me.”
Had Nevil genuinely seen potential in his son, or did the practicalities of keeping the family magic theatre business going weigh heavy in his decision....?