The old theatrical belief that you should never work with children or animals didn’t trouble the cast of this year’s village pantomime in Ashover – and they might well have had ample justification for concern.
More children than ever before (23 of them aged between three and nine) were cast in an adaptation of the classic fairytale ‘Cinderella’ by writer and director Rosemary Early, who has now been scripting pantomimes in the village for more than a quarter of a century.
For two nights this week, the youngsters sang, danced and performed like real troupers - much to the genuine delight of adults in the cast who agreed, without reservation, that the children really were the stars of the show.
To include so many in a long and demanding programme was, by any standard, a bold decision on Rosemary’s part but she justified it by arguing that the annual panto is a free village show and anyone in the community who wants to take part should have an opportunity to do so.
The proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating and when the curtain went down on Saturday’s final performance, nobody was in any doubt that the 2013 panto was another unqualified success.
If evidence were needed, there were record audiences on each evening and some locals enjoyed the opening night so much that they returned for the following day’s performance.
Principal roles went to Claire Bonsall as the beautiful Cinderella, Sue Crookes as her Prince Charming, newcomer Victoria Gilthorpe as a delightful Dandini, Ruth Russell as the loveable Buttons and Celia Kelly as the trouble-shooting Fairy Godmother.
Newcomers to the panto scene Nicola Tarbatt and Nev Stanley played Baron and Baroness Rockbottom alongside their ugly sister daughters Andrew Lovell and the Revd.Alan Telford (who, fortunately for the congregation, wasn’t preaching on Sunday).
They were supported by a very regal King Glorious the XII (Nigel Early, who also produced the eye-catching scenery and many of the props) and his queen, (Marjorie Telford), a pair of most unlikely gymnasts (Ron Eyley and Derek Marrison), two unscrupulous bailiffs (Neil Banner and Jim Daykin), and palace guards Summer and Amber Guy.
The ever-effervescent Town Crier, Merrick Bull, had the challenge of holding the performance together as well as keeping a close eye on the children who graced the stage as dancers, fairies, horses, footmen and guests. They were: Jennifer and Emily Daykin, Estee Hunter-Bott, Verity Camm, Lucy and Alice Evans, William and Lucy Johnson, Maddie, Laurie and Maria Kelly, Theo and Evie Bell, Alex and Daniel Knighton, Sophie and Georgina Tarbatt, Zachary and Abi Coates and Ashley and Millie Smith.
In the absence through illness of regular musical director Sarah Evans, Nigel Turner of Bolsover Drama Group stepped into the breach with percussionist Pat Sabin and singer Lyndsey Stevens. Phil Clark again took charge of the sound and lighting with Sheena Clark, Wendy Taylor, Helen Brown and Stevie Dronfield as stage crew.
“As usual, we had some challenging moments when illness threatened several members of the cast but we soldiered on and everything turned out all right in the end,” said Rosemary. “We are really delighted by the number of compliments we have received from so many people”.
Tributes to everyone involved in the pantomime were paid during the annual parish party by the Rector of Ashover, the Revd. Ralph Lawrence, and by Reader David Russell at Sunday morning’s family service in All Saints Church. NG