Getting in on a Great Panto Act

Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England), December 6, 2005 | Go to article overview

Getting in on a Great Panto Act


Byline: By Louisa Pilbeam

The pantomime season kicks off tonight. Louisa Pilbeam goes behind the scene of the People's Theatre panto to find what makes it tick

They are shop workers, engineers and students ( oh no they're not.

They are Puss in Boots, the Handsome Prince and baddie Malarios ( oh yes they are.

And the cast of the People's Theatre wouldn't have it any other way.

The amateur dramatics group in Heaton, Newcastle, have always given local people the chance to perform and their Christmas panto Puss in Boots is no exception.

But if you thought putting on a panto was easy, then you are having a laugh.

Rehearsals start at 7.30pm and come 10.30pm the cast is still practising. But there are no tired or glum faces.

The cast is enthusiastic and raring to go, even after three hours of dancing, singing and going through scenes.

And when director Andy Glancey, of Jarrow, says he wants the main characters to stay to do their solos, there are no pleas of `I have to get home'.

It's like that for three nights a week plus Sundays for eight weeks as well as their day jobs and everything else in their lives. That is dedication for you.

But no-one seems to mind.

Admittedly, it is not hard to listen to because they are so good. As Christina Dawson, of Jesmond, Newcastle, who plays Puss, says: "It is hard work but at the same time it doesn't feel like hard work because I enjoy it so much."

The 23-year-old has just graduated from the Live Academy of Performing Arts in Newcastle and is going on to do her Masters there.

In the day she teaches drama at Jarrow Comprehensive full-time, but she finds more than enough energy to bounce around the stage as Puss.

Her role demands she sings two solos and dance in the panto and she is eager to be a professional actress. In fact, she has just been taken on by a top agent and hopes to go into television or the theatre.

She says: "As the main characters are in most scenes you have to come along to most of the rehearsals so it is tough. But I love every minute of it and it's really good experience as acting is what I want to do as a job."

Director Andy, 37, chose Puss in Boots for this year's panto because it had not been performed in the area recently and he thought it would make an exciting change.

He says: "One of the first things we had to do was to choose a panto. Then we had to find a good script and we finally decided on one by Paul Laidlow. All this was done back in February of this year."

The script has the traditional he's behind you, oh no he isn't lines, melded with the visual slapstick humour but also has modern references that form part of the entertainment.

Andy says: "We had to update the script to get rid of dated jokes like references to Blind Date, which have been replaced by a scene mirroring The Weakest Link."

Andy got into working with the People's Theatre after a friend, who was a member of the group, asked if he could come along for the night and help.

"After that I went to the rehearsals for Cabaret and loved it. I joined up and I've been a member now for 13 years. I assistant directed Little Shop of Horrors."

The People's Theatre has a massive wardrobe any girl would love to get her hands on. Vintage costumes are divided on different rails and boxes of jewellery, hats, crowns, scarves, and shoes tower right up to the ceiling. Hours of fun could be spent in there. …

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