Charity panto by council staff

Dick Whittington and his Cat

Sheringham Little Theatre

There has been a change of power at North Norfolk District Council - from the Lib Dems to the 'ad libs'.

The proof came as staff switched workaday jobs for roles in a charity panto.

Desks and clipboards were replaced by costumes and wigs as they became the cast for a show which demonstrated that, in a time of impending cutbacks, there is no shortage of good sports at the 'town hall.'

This Dick Whittington production is not as polished and pacey as the 'proper' panto staged earlier this year at the Little Theatre.

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But you would not expect it to be and it really doesn't matter, because, like a true village drama production, the joy of this show is seeing not the butcher, baker and candlestickmaker, but the benefits officer, health official, and secretary, out of their comfort zone and on stage.

Tourist information officer Beverley Els brings warmth and a flavour of Dawn French to the title role, with benefits officer Laura Williamson at her side as Tiddles the cat, purring with plenty of am dram experience to help the cast escape some of their nine lives of fluffed lines.

Despite being a clergyman, retired PA Paul Neale is a natural 'baddie' as King Rat, and, with his hench-rodents Bodgit and Scarper (Jill Fisher and Julie Cook), bring a welcome energy boost to proceedings.

The sweetness, in contrast, comes from the pleasant voice of Hayley Cawthorne, making an impressive debut in the council panto gang.

Regular dame Steve Hems leads the buffoonery as Sarah the Cook, bringing his trademark wit to a character as colourful as his frocks.

Special mention too for council chairman Gloria Lisher who gamely appeared as the Sheik of Morocco in the closing scene.

The show has all the hallmarks of a classic panto - awful jokes. singalongs and audience members - including the chief executive and leader on opening night - dragooned onto stage to whip up the wind for a stricken ship.

There are jokes at the expense of the council but the audience is laughing with rather at the authority in this show, which makes up for what it lacks in finesse with lashings of pluck and home-spun charm.

People may boo and hiss the council for some of their work and decisions, but they should be applauded for this bit of charity showbiz which set to raise �4,000 for North Norfolk Radio Families First and the Soldiers Sailors Airmen and families Association.

The cast will be hoping that the coming weeks at work will have a similar happy ending.

Richard Batson

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