The Art of Coarse Pantomiming
I suppose I could begin this little outpouring with: 'Dear Diary ...' Or maybe, in this instance, 'Dear Writebuzz …'? Putting on a pantomime is supposed to be fun, isn't it? Oh, yeah.
Of course the paying audience, the punters, get to see only the finished result. And some of them have been known in the past to approach after the shows and express their views of what fun it must be to be involved in the production of such endeavours. Indeed, rose tinted parental warmth following a belter of a performance is a great way of recruiting youngsters for next year's chorus line. That has happened many times, and more usually than not it is Mum or Dad rather than the kids themselves who make the first move. “You will enjoy every minute of it, really you will!” But I guess everything has its darker side sometimes.
Last year, as older Writebuzz readers might just recall, we suffered a burst water pipe in the hall – the ramshackle old hall – which for decades now has been our venue. Eventually, six weeks late, we put on the panto, 'Beauty and the Beast', in a large hired room with a stage in a Methodist Church Hall in Downham Market. Not entirely satisfactory, but at least we managed to salvage something. For the 2012 performance we are back in our own venue once more complete with new floor and other repairs courtesy of the insurance, and with high hopes for 'Alice in Wonderland – the Panto', which is something of a brave departure given that Lewis Carroll's masterpiece is not generally considered pantomimable material.
So what then – to crib the fishing term – is meant by 'coarse pantomiming'? Well it doesn't mean we've got Frankie Boyle, rest assured on that point! Basically the term is a blanket cover for all the unseen aspects involved in putting a show on. Things like squirming around beneath the stage tying together all the legs of twelve trestles which go to making it up. Or wiring up fifty year old stage lights complete with their 15 amp round pin plugs which have to be slotted into converters almost as old as themselves. Coping with electrical breakdowns. Setting mouse traps, particularly in the roof void. Re-affixing dropped ceramic tiles in the gent's loo. Or coaxing two sets of curtains dating to c.1935 to swish back and forth as they once did in their now far distant youth. Printing tickets, posters, programmes, organising programme advertising, sticking numbered labels on the backs of seats. Or even transporting heavy back scene boards (twelve of them) in pick up trucks or on tractor hauled trailers to and from their storage place (a farmer's barn). And likewise the immensely heavy pair of side-stages, upon either one of which up to a dozen cast at a time can squeeze up waiting their cue to go on stage. On stage left, you see, there is not much room. On stage right there is none at all.
Yesterday evening, 29/11/2011, our new director and supposed script writer turned up, threw a hissy fit, and immediately stormed out again. 'We are never going to get this done in time' being the essential argument. Well no, not when after seven weeks the director still hasn't produced any full scripts - “My printer's broken” - and his girlfriend to whom he had allocated a very major part had thus far attended one and half rehearsals out of seven … Parents of the younger kids were not best pleased, and who could blame them? So, along with a departing Mr Director we also saw walking away two but possibly four teenaged cast, at least two kids, plus all but one of the part-scripts we had managed to get which were to be 'collected'. (Having worked on it as well Hazelton refused to hand his over.)
Gives a further definition to the 'coarse' term I guess. So what now? One surviving part-script, half a cast, no backstage people at all, and a lot of fed up parents. Performance week is mid-February. Puts today's public sector pension strikes into perspective! Still storm, freeze and flood failed to entirely stop us last year. I suppose the attitude must now be that we will get Alice in Wonderland brilliantly performed fully on time even if it kills us. Mrs Hazelton is of the view that it just might.
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