Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Panto’ll have ’em rolling in the aisles

IT’S been nearly 12 months since the last Kenton panto — but the team behind this year’s effort

IT’S been nearly 12 months since the last Kenton panto — but the team behind this year’s effort are aiming to put on a trolley great show... at least if the cast’s supermarket sweep earlier this week is anything to go by.

Jack and the Beanstalk characters Dame Trott, Simple Simon and Jack himself popped to the supermarket to see if they could track down some magic beans.

Played by Matt Ian Kelly, Michael Taylorson and Robin Hemmings respectively, it would be a blatant spoiler to say whether they succeeded or not — so you’ll just have to watch the show to find out.

Let’s hope it’s worth the Waitrose...

Appalling puns are a panto staple, of course, but writer-director Ian McFarlane and producer Oli Seadon weren’t giving anything away about the script this week.

Following months of preparation and a week of solid rehearsals in the New Street theatre itself — something they say has been a real boon — the pair are clearly delighted to see their creation taking wing at last.

Wednesday’s dress rehearsal performance before an invited audience was followed the next morning by the first of the public preview performances — at the bracingly early showtime of 9.30am.

Oli and Ian said a school group had got in touch to request an early performance — and they were only too happy to oblige.

As the Henley Standard hit the stands yesterday (Thursday), the second preview was just getting under way at 2.30pm.

But today (Friday) there is no safety net — with an 11am performance followed by the first evening show at 5.30pm. Jack and the Beanstalk is running until Sunday, December 27 — with Christmas Day itself being the cast and crew’s only day off.

Over the course of the 10-day run at the 240-seat venue, the production will average two shows a day — meaning that just over 5,000 seats are on sale (5,040 to be exact).

Not bad when you think that Henley’s population in the 2011 census was recorded as being 11,619.

For Ian, the challenge of giving Henley the pantomime it deserves is one he clearly relishes.

He has previously spoken of how a panto ticket is a Christmas treat for many of the audience — with all the responsibility that confers — adding: “It’s a very exciting thing, a bit nerve-racking for a director, that you are somebody’s Christmas present as well — which I think is a really important thing to remind everybody on the show while they’re working on it. It’s a big deal.”

While Jack is just starting its run, there’s a sense in which its creators’ work is nearly done.

As Oli explained, the process of getting the show into its final form is now very nearly complete — following which he and Ian will hand over to the stage manager to oversee the remainder of the run. He said: “We’ll be there for — certainly for the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday — the first few shows. Ian will give notes after each one of those. There will probably be a few updates and we might re-rehearse some bits and pieces, but after the Saturday we’ll probably go — and we’ll then come back and see it a couple of times as well.”

Worth the Waitrose? Undoubtedly.

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