Theatre plans grand return to panto
- Credit: SLT/Richard Batson
There are plenty of events planned for Sheringham Little Theatre. Director Debbie Thompson brings us up to date on the latest goings-on.
Panto involves a lot of “it’s behind you” moments. But when you run a theatre you also have plenty of “it’s ahead of you” moments when it comes to planning the big festive family show.
Believe it or not panto thoughts begin as early as March, deciding which show to do – normally a contrast to the year before – so we have Jack and the Beanstalk following last year’s Rapunzel.
Then we choose the writer and director (Nick Earnshaw, more on whom shortly), music (Norfolk Music Hub, who are again helping us with our schools work), and set designer (Peter Beck, who does an amazing job in the limited space we have at the Little Theatre).
By June we have the casting and costumes sorted , then autumn sees the start of publicity – so panto time is virtually year round for us.
We are so lucky to have experienced panto writer, director and dame Nick Earnshaw creating the show for the eighth year. He brings a real unique, modern zany feel to the shows, putting a “today” slant on traditional stories.
He is helped by having children aged from teens to seven so he knows what amuses them. And because he is an actor he also knows what works for adults too, ensuring the show appeals to children, parents and grandparents.
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If you wandered past the theatre a few days ago you may have spotted a young man dressed in a cow outfit posing outside the front door. Our “cow boy” is young professional actor Olly Westlake, from Southrepps who is playing Colin the family cow in the show, which, like last year, has a four-strong cast.
He is joined by Charlie Randall as Jack, Harry Wyatt as his embarrassing dancing mum Dame Tik Tok, and Emma Riches as Jack’s girlfriend Jill.
Even though Covid rules, which put major restrictions on last year’s Rapunzel show, have changed, we are sticking to the new-look formula we brought in for 2020’s panto. It means shorter, more concentrated, shows, but more of them.
We found that audiences enjoyed the hour-long format - instead of around two-and-a-half - which is long enough for some children, especially the younger ones. And even if we do three shows in a day it is still less tiring for the actors than two longer ones.
Because, as we explained, decisions begin in March, we also decided to keep the condensed show for budgetary reasons and because there remains some uncertainty about restrictions as we go into winter. But we do hope to resume bigger shows in future years, as we particularly miss getting youngsters from the community involved in the panto “chorus.”
The action on stage hopefully feels fresh and spontaneous to the audience , but, as you can see, months of brainstorming and careful preparation go into it.
There is no reason why audiences should know that. We just want them to turn up and have a great time as a festive family treat. But this seemed a good chance to explain that behind every Christmas present, there is also a Christmas future!
Before panto there are plenty of shows to enjoy as our theatre accelerates back into action after lockdown. Highlights for the coming weeks are:
Friday September 17 and 18 - 1940s singalongs - Listen to the favourite songs of the wartime and 40s sung by our talented performers - and dress up if you want to!
Thursday September 30 - The Time Machine - Fantasy family show (children aged from seven) putting a new neon twist on HG Wells’ tale of an eccentric inventor who travels to the future.
Wednesday October 6 - Notorious Norfolk Murders – Illustrated talk by historian Neil Storey looking at dark deeds from the county’s past.
Friday October 8 - Abba Sensation – Top tribute act to the pop supertroupers with a stunning stage show, costume changes and with audience participation encouraged. For more details of all shows visit www.sheringhamlittletheatre.com