A Christmas Message to everyone
John Hartoch from the Bristol Old Vic, who was our Consultant Artistic Director for The Wind in the Willows, has sent us the following Christmas message which we thought might bring a little bit of much-needed fun into your lives:
Four Dames, A Fairy and A Big Bad Wolf – now next year
The best is yet to come! Ironically, because of all the social distancing rules involved in putting on a panto at the moment, we have ended up with probably the best panto we’ve ever done! Our creativity and ingenuity has been stretched to the limits as we grapple with the challenge of being hilarious in the midst of a pandemic.
One method is to cast members of the same household in ‘close up’ scenes (where 2m distancing would otherwise be required). Examples of this are in the rehearsal photos below, in which David and Venetia Hopkins play Mummy and Daddy Bear, with David Eccles and Matilda Friend as Baby Bear and Goldilocks. David and Venetia get even more up close and personal later in the show as Friar Tuck and Little John!
Then we have 6’6” Will Ewens playing the Big Bad Wolf opposite his diminutive daughter Ruby’s Little Red Riding Hood – so small she can get her whole head between the Wolf’s Great Big Teeth! Elsewhere Will plays Widow Twankey, with 7 year-old Ruby as Twankey’s long-suffering second husband, Merv.
Will also plays one of the two Ugly Sisters, with David Eccles as his opposite number, who deals with social distancing by wearing a patent ‘keep away!’ girdle armed with hands that fend off anyone who comes too close. Designed and made by the incredible Philip Hamlin, who also made the Wolf’s head for us.
And, of course, there is an appearance by Special Guest Star Dame Edna Everage (one of our 4 Dames) who also, perhaps unexpectedly, shows up as The Mirror in Snow White and as The Genie in Aladdin. A woman of many parts!
Limiting the number of actors to 6 in each scene has led us to augment the cast through puppetry. As well as a life-size puppet Hen Who Lays Golden Eggs – in Jack and the Beanstalk – we introduce for the first time a range of fabulous shadow puppets, an example of which is shown below. Designed and created by Anne Richards, and operated onscreen by puppeteer Greg Phillpotts, they bring a unique and innovative magic to many of the scenes, as well as extended opportunities for silly gags.
And that, after all, is what panto is all about, isn’t it? A series of silly gags wrapped around well-loved fairy stories and traditional tales.
So, we are loving putting this show together for our community. We are postponed, not cancelled; and we can’t wait finally to stage our brilliant show as early as we can in 2021.
By then we’ll all need a laugh, so – stay safe and we’ll see you soon!