I promised I’d get back to chat about the Drama Group in time for their AGM, and I’ve kept the lovely Sleeping Beauty programme from this year’s show close to hand for this past month and a half, all ready to write about this important meeting.
Annual General Meetings are where the Allen Valley Drama Group looks at itself for another year, dusting off the remains of the winter, debriefing members about the year gone, and beginning to think about the next pantomime ahead. These days, it’s only the pantomime that the group does, as local business and other frenzied activities have encroached on the time and capacity of the members. The pantomime is enough, in and of itself, to occupy the group anyway!
I thought that Sleeping Beauty this year was just so lovely, so inclusive and entertaining! The script by Laura Charlton worked so well, moving the intriguing plotline (and honestly, sometimes you have to work hard just to discern a plot at all in the production — not this year!) along, and making space for a variety of characters to shine. Lillie Weatherson was a particular joy in the role of Princess Joy, and Molly Baynes was a really chirpy rabbit in what I think was her first speaking role. Of course the regulars, Anna, Franchesca, Cordelia, Paige and mother Emma Harrison all shone like individual galaxies twinkling into our hearts, along with the delightful contributions of Jenny Findlay, Max Baynes, Jonny Burns, Maggie Keen, Tori Miller, Margaret Stonehouse and Peter Carter, who we’ve come to know and love on-stage. The presence of Bruce Martin and Heidi Miller as Guards and Lucy Bell and Yana Farley as Maids was salutary too in the dance and continuity sequences. Without the Harrison and Baynes families (of course, I couldn’t not mention Sheila’s remarkable efforts alongside Jonny in the role of dames, and Nigel Baynes in somewhat subdued mode, but eliciting no less of a frisson on stage as the Wicked Witch) . . . without these two families the whole shebang would be dramatically diminished, but I really loved the efforts of unrelated cast members as well, all of whom I hope I’ve managed to mention!
The songs were amazingly contemporary, delivered with real feeling and panache, extraordinarily well-coached and lively, so that each set piece, on the Friday evening we were there, was received with great cheerfulness. And Peter with his helpers dealt with the inevitable half-time raffle with more aplomb and expeditiousness than I’ve ever seen! The front of house crew made us feel so welcome as we passed over our tickets, bought the raffle slips, and bottles of wine for sustenance. It was slightly longer than usual this year, the show, and I thought, in retrospect, that maybe the last number before the interval might have been more rousing (it was thoroughly macabre though!) but the finale more than made up for that — such a thrill of happiness emanating back and forth from audience to stage!
So why am I working at delivering a sort of review of the show now? Well, mostly to say how much each member of the cast contributed to the success of the pantomime, dedicated this year to the memory of Lesley MacDonald who passed away suddenly last year. Everyone, back stage crew who remain unseen, technical crew working away in the corner on sound and lights, film director/producer, make-up artists and costumiers, everyone who helped make the show what it was, eliciting full houses at each show, is appreciated, beloved, thanked over and over by a grateful community. The pantomime is fun, really fun, for everyone who participates, and for a time, most of January I’d imagine, as well as in the long early rehearsal months during the autumn, the show becomes all pervasive in participants’ lives.
But you need to get in by the front door, really, at the AGM next week(!), to find a place within the all-encompassing theatrical family, to catch the opportunity to contribute. That’s why, if you’re at all interested in any aspect of theatre, (I’d venture that age of any sort is no barrier) you can find a niche for yourself by going along in a timely manner at 7:30pm upstairs in the Golden Lion next week, Thursday the 28th of March, where Chairman Nigel will call the meeting to order and a new year of puncturing pomposity and making fun of everyone, will begin. This really is an important meeting — I’m not quite sure how Drama Group members communicate with each other, unless they use a cobbled-together group of email addresses sent round-robin style, since their facebook page was last updated in 2015 — so best to be physically there, I’d have thought, to be considered present and accounted for.
AGMs can be dreary sorts of affairs (though I’d venture that the Allen Valley Drama Group’s is less tedious than most!), but sometimes you’ve got to go with the organisational niceties to get to the delight of the show, and maybe that’s why it’s worth remembering today, just in time for the business, how lovely the pantomime was this year, and how much regular participants, and new recruits, will be made so very welcome.