I was asked by the Deputy Head of Rory’s former primary school, Ayscoughfee Hall, where I’m still a governor, to help them with the staff Christmas Panto. Of course, I said, I’d be happy to be involved.
Which panto is it?
Ah then you must want me to be the prince; I’m good at all that thigh-slapping.
Or maybe you’ve seen my Dandini, darling?
A guest appearance?
No, we don’t really need you on the stage at all. We’d like you to press the ‘play’ button on the CD player for the backing tracks.
Once I’d picked myself up, I agreed to assist as it only involved a couple of rehearsals before doing my techie thing yesterday afternoon for the performance to the children, and last night for the parents. I had to sit behind a huge bewildering mixing desk but fortunately was only required to move one slider up and down for volume, together with playing and pausing the CD player. So why was I so worried? Probably because the essence of playing music at the correct time is dependent on being given the correct cues by the actors on stage. A bit of guesswork was needed, plus some timely nods by the director, Mrs Wayman, who was also a narrator. Let’s just say, the script was fairly free at times, particularly during the Queen’s scenes when, quite frankly, it could have gone anywhere and frequently did.
The Headmaster, an ugly sister, was quite a sight wearing a Cher wig he borrowed from me, although I did hear one member of the evening audience compare him to Brian May on acid. He was accompanied by Mr Hutton, the IT teacher, who sported a stupendous lurex-covered chest. Both chaps flashed an unseemly amount of hairy leg on occasions, enough to give the infants night terrors for weeks to come. Mind you, the Year Two teacher, Mrs Chester, a bit scary at the best of times, was still fearsome dressed in a fluffy dressing gown as the snappy, crotchety Step Mum.
The Prince was played by the reception teacher, Mrs Smith, who impressed me with a fine pair of legs encased in fishnet; doubtless the dads in the audience appreciated them too. Not sure the mums would have been quite so enamoured with the pink tutu worn by the caretaker, Mr Bratley, though I have to say I think he and his floppy wand have missed their vocation: may have to sign him up for our amateur dramatic group as he’s a natural.
The Year Six teacher, Mrs Laud, played a world-weary Cinders with a penchant for doughnuts and Jammy Dodgers. I used to wonder why it took her so long to make her entrances until I realised she was wearing huge pink slippers and could therefore only shuffle to the stage. However her gait complemented her outfit of gingham pinny and hair in rollers, definitely channelling her ‘Mrs Overall’.
In fact the whole production had an Acorn Antiques look about it: the ad-libs, the ‘not sure where I’m meant to be’ dithering, the whispered prompts. Of course, this just added to the sheer fun of the show. And what a bloody good show it was: great energy, lots of silliness, proper choreographed dances and some excellent contemporary song choices the kids loved.
Coming at the end of a busy term when the teachers and support staff have been doing their usual work, plus producing two infant nativity plays, I was amazed they still had the energy and dedication to give up their own time to rehearse and perform for the children and parents. Congratulations to everyone involved.
Are you sure I can’t have a part next year?