Village panto is a cracker

Mother Goose, produced by Hathersage Players
Mother Goose, produced by Hathersage Players

MEN are in such short supply for theatrical roles that a village group has launched a recruitment drive.

Hathersage Players came close to cancelling their last production due to the lack of males available for the parts and a previous show was an all-female production.

So it was apt that this year’s panto was Mother Goose, enabling the female of the species to take on roles intended for men as well as maintaining the tradition of at least one man playing a woman.

Panto dame, lead character and joint scriptwriter - Chris Tupling scored a hat-trick of triumphs as the likeable Mother Goose in a story which he wrote with his wife Katie, who is the vicar at Hathersage.

Literally standing head and shoulders above everyone else - and nearly as tall as Mother Goose’s patient, perfectly preened pal Priscilla (played by Jane Richardson in a giant goose’s costume) - Chris put on a top performance as the generous benefactor who saved fellow villagers from losing their homes.

Every good panto has a moral - and in this case, it was ‘be careful what you wish for’. Mother Goose’s dream of being beautiful was granted by the wicked fairy Malady (an excellent performance by Emily Upton) but at what cost?

Compassion and concern for fellow men were replaced by shallowness, vanity and self-obsession as kindly Mother Goose was transformed into nasty Beautiful Mother Goose.

Professional Joanna Lumley-lookalike Sally Craike played Mother Goose’s alter-ego to perfection, swanning on stage in leopardskin gown and beehived hair, dropping sweetie and Bolly into her speeches and swigging from a miniature bottle of gin.

Upping the comedy stakes, Christine Marshall as Simon the Pieman, cracked an egg-ceptional amount of corny yolks - sorry - jokes which had cast members and audience groaning.

The cavalier chocolatiers - Pat McLoughlin and Vicky Harris as Praline and Nougatine from two villes en France and Angie Plank as the Brummie-speaking Ovaltine from Bourneville - deliberately missed their cues but never dropped their weapons of choice, a whisk, a wooden spoon and a spatula. Their sweetly voiced send-up of Three Little Maids from The Mikado was the stand-out song of the show.

Sixteen-year-old Liam Shaw played the money-grabbing Squire Squeezum, aided and abetted by the more mature Roger Plank and Sean Jennings as the numbskull henchmen, Yugo and Hugo.

Katherine Hollis as Mother Goose’s clumsy son Jack and Hazel Watson as the squire’s daughter Jill brought the aah-factor to the panto as the sweethearts kept apart by parents but destined to be together. Their sensitive rendition of Elton John’s Your Song tugged plenty of heartstrings.

This was one of the few pantos where I have seen children and young people play such an important part. The youngest members of the cast sang beautifully, danced exquisitely and are the shining stars of the future. Accompanied by a five-strong band under the leadership of pianist Andrea Wright, Mother Goose was staged at Hathersage Memorial Hall last week. Directors were Melanie Jennings, Wendy Anthony and Becky Winstanley, choreography was by Angie Plank and Lizzie Wright and the children’s song and dance by Lindsey Garner.

l Anyone wishing to join the players, particularly men, should contact secretary Becky Winstanley on (01433) 651068.