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It’s Panto time – again!

September 21, 2022

The last time we staged a panto was Ali Baba in 2019 and then, you know, Covid. When I was asked back in the spring if I could find a script for this year, I didn’t really have to think about it. There was still one Robin Bailes script we hadn’t done: Cinderella. I’d looked at it before and rejected it due to staging difficulties. Time to dust it off and have another look. Also a quick check with Robin to ensure he was okay with me adapting it. (He was.)

Oh, and there was someone with whom I needed to consult: A wonderful actress on the island who would be perfect for Cinderella, but who hadn’t done any work with us for a while after having her third child. Fortuitously ran into her in the grocery store and she was very excited at the prospect. I had my Cinderella.

When we held open auditions early in the summer we did do a couple of scenes from Cinderella, including one with the ugly stepsisters. Neil, who’d recently been my Essex in A Divine Comedy, and another bloke were eager to try out and they were hilarious. There was also a great evil stepmother. All very promising.

I knew from the start who I wanted for Prince Charming and deliberately inserted several lines specifically for him to deliver. He was also very keen when I sent him the script. Unfortunately, shortly before I left for the UK he was forced to withdraw due to an injury. Damn. All those great tall jokes. Oh, but wait, another tall friend made it clear he could easily be persuaded. Okay, good. 

I also had a local artist lined up to take charge of designing the sets.

Went off to London feeling as if everything was on track.

Came back to discover the artist was no longer available and my second Prince Charming had decided he wanted to do some travelling in the autumn and thus was no longer available. Gulp.

Ray, who played Ali Baba was in his late fifties at the time, but looks much younger. So too do my first and second Prince Charmings. Now I was beginning to panic. If there’s one thing we’re short of as a theatre company it’s younger male actors. Who the hell could I get to play the prince? 

Over dinner one evening with my friend Jean I remembered a young bloke who’d turned up at our very first open auditions a few years ago. I even remembered his name. There had been no sightings of him since. Turned out someone Jean knows is very good friends with this fella. A circuitous courtship began with Jean asking his friend if he might be persuaded. The initial response was no, then, fifteen minutes later, actually yes. Hurrah! (Scratch the tall jokes.)

With four days to go until the audition, disaster struck. My Cinderella had to pull out. Her husband had been offered an exceedingly well paid two month contract to go to work in Kitimat. So well paid he really couldn’t turn it down. With him away, there was no way she could do the show. The only person as gutted as I was was her. As she said, she was born to play the role. Oh my god. Young women are also pretty short on the ground. There was one female I thought could pull it off and I encouraged her to come to the audition.

And then it was time and guess what happened? A young woman, new to the island, walked in the door and knocked it out of the park. Had my first choice been available I still would have given it to her, but she wasn’t and the project had been saved. Hurrah!

Still in need of an artist and people to do makeup (I’m working on it), but our wardrobe wizard is gung ho. Alarming silence from the guy who’s supposed to be doing sound, which is rather worrying, but I have a great cast.

First rehearsal last night. One of the actors turned up with a couple of dresses which might make good costumes. One looked as if it would almost fit Neil. He couldn’t wait to get tucked in.

It’s going to be a great show!

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