One of the things I always thought this diary could document is the cyclicity of events: how things are developed one year, and then re-developed on and into the coming year. The cycle of life in these parts, essentially. So it’s only fair to remark at this point on the rehearsals for February’s pantomime week, coming up in the New Year. Of course, pantomimes don’t spring lightly onto the stage — they take a lot of hard work beforehand, and that work typically commences in early October of the previous year.
So by now in fact, the rehearsals are in full swing! I dropped into one, just at the time the dancers were preparing ‘The Greatest Show’ number, yesterday evening up at Sinderhope Community Centre. It was a desperately beastly night, as the inexorable, unremitting gusts of wind forced the rain itself across the road in lateral stair-rods. Typically, the Drama Group divide their rehearsals between St. Cuthbert’s Church Hall and more lately, the community centre at Sinderhope. Only in the last weeks before the big show do they get together at Allendale Village Hall to finesse the final offering.
I was the first one to arrive, but the hall was so warm and welcoming that I had a chance to take a longer exposure photo. Lovely! And soon folks started to rush in from the gales and rain. Never has the basic principle of a double-entry door seemed so sound as last evening, as I’d somehow managed to seat myself directly in the face of incoming windy gusts, when both doors were left ajar!
Eventually, with simple grace and informality, the dancers stood to attention and Galiya Farley, dance and movement choreographer again this year, began to put them through their paces. Chris Welton was carefully showing the sound system’s paces to a young engineer so she could step into the breech if need be.
Margaret Stonehouse, producer of the upcoming show, was eager to chat about the ramifications of the prolonged rehearsal schedule. ‘Yes, for sure,’ she said, ‘On cold winter nights it’s no fun to come out and go through a rehearsal, but.’ She thought a bit. ‘But you’d be surprised how jolly everyone is, how much laughter these evenings create! And that’s the social point of it all, in many ways.’
She reminded me that the entire show this year has been written, is being directed again, by Laura Charlton, who must have started right after the 2019 pantomime, so as to have the scripts ready for distribution by early October. Margaret says that the script is entirely original, unique to Allendale, no derivatives, being an off-beat version of the original James Barrie story due to be staged on the 6th, 7th and 8th of February, 2020. Besides ensuring that everything runs along as smoothly as possible, Margaret also plays the octopus. Hmmm, no, I didn’t remember an octopus in the Peter Pan story either, but there you go!
‘This year,’ she went on, meaning to you and me, next year, ‘There are so many brilliant singers, and so there’s a great list of songs, as well as lots of dance numbers.’ I remembered I wanted to try to get a shot or two of the dance rehearsal in action.
Margaret resumed her PR bit: “So this year there’s 18 cast members, and just in the past week or so the backstage technical crew (that would be Michael Keene, Terry Page and Will Stonehouse) have begun the long process of ensuring that all the props will be in hand. Most everything is hand-made for our shows, you know.’
And then she proceeded to divulge a few of the intriguing plot twists and characters, which made my eyes pop out rather, but I was already, implicitly, sworn to secrecy. ‘Pan-tastic’ was the word that came to mind, as I gathered the camera bag together and proceeded to brave the slashing elements once more.