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The Missing Panto Revue!

 

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So here, not published online but with an article on a postman biting Cat- Is our Pantomime Revue Published here in full! 

Sparkling panto is a Christmas cracker
Roger Malone review Plymouth Herald

A sparkling pantomime is as welcome as presents around the Christmas tree and pudding and cream for dessert and this one is a cracker from the start. With King rat rising from the stage in a cloud of dry ice to the elaborately costumed finale, the production is a festive kaleidoscope of comedy and spectacle. As the scheming king rat John Partridge clearly enjoys berating the audience and threatening his nemesis Dick Whittington the Eastenders star packs a potent Machiavellian punch as he plots to Overrun London with fellow rodents and just wait until you see his giant rat.

Combatting the evil powers is Samantha Womack another East-Ender famous for playing Ronnie Mitchell cast as the spirit of Bowbells, Womack gives a warm engaging performance as the virtuous fairy who champions dick against his dastardly adversary.

The Panto Dame is excellently performed by Nigel Ellacott playing Widow Felicity Fitzwarren. Ellacott’s portrayal is both comic and sympathetic avoiding the over the top grotesque that can be the caricature of too many Panto dames.

Her going to bed scene performed to the raunchy shrines of the stripper presents an hilarious unveiling of layer upon layer of underwear and the ghost routine complete with a sprightly dancing Spectre brings freshness to this time old sketch that, at best, is guaranteed to entertain audiences of all ages.

Comedy is in the capable hands of the ever popular Andy Ford. As idle Jack Ford is the comic cornerstone of the production.
His unique delivery and interaction with the audience insures gales of laughter, sometimes elicited with just a mere glance or deliberately lame joke.
“It must be lovely to watch me”, he says to the audience with his winning combination of coyness and Chutzpah.
Frequently referring to people as “my luvver” he treats us to ‘the Janner song’. There is also his ‘West Country translator’ a gadget that can digests complex speech and interpret it as simple Janner speak.
At the end of Tuesday night’s performance a special mention of Alex Hetherington was given by John Partridge. Hetherington stepped into the role of Dick Whittington at the last minute due to John Lumsden being taken ill.
Heatherington deserved every bit of the applause received from an appreciative audience.
His relationship with Alice Fitzwarren played by Daisy Twells is an instant delight.
Director and choreographer Garry Lloyd ensures the pantomime pace never falters. The dancers deliver slick snappy routines – and Tom the cat played by Ryan kayode makes a surefooted feline contribution taking us from London town to the Moroccan palace of the Sultan vinegar played with regal air by Spin.

We are treated to a traditional pantomime adventure to entertain the whole family. Oh yes it does!

Saturday 12th January. The Last Day!

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As predicted, it DID fly past and was over before you knew it! The matinee saw the return of our brilliant interpreter Daryl, who once again gave an amazing “signing” of the show. What a talent!

Between shows both sets of juveniles held a Farewell party Front Of House.

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The “Juves” Party

It was great fun, and a lot of photos were taken. What a really great team of young performers we have in the Red & The Blue Teams here at TRP.

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Here’s Christian Jones as our Panto Ghost. Yesterday’s 1,200 Primary School Children reached the very highest of decibel levels screaming at him! Its the reason this site was named “Its Behind You!”. It is Still the best Panto Scene ever!Never fails!

I hope I’ve put put some brief footage on this page, I’m never too sure if it works- if it does, you’ll be able to see the and hear the ghost scenes for yourself!

Andrew Ryan arrived yesterday fresh from “Dick Whittington” at Southampton as Sarah The Cook, and from Directing “Cinderella” at Bromley. Today he lent a hand and did my “Get-Out” during the show. So great to have everything wrapped and bagged up by the end of the Finale. A Big Thank You to Mr Ryan!

I must also thank “Team Felicity” – Wardrobe and Sound depts who made my life so much easier through their skill and kindness. To Ryan, Teresa and Jannine (on sound) who got me in and out of the costume changes with ease, with great humour and made it a joy to be a part of their team. Our quick change from Lady Admiral To Sailor just kept beating records. Thank you SO much. Very appreciated.

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Empty Room and Full Crates!

At the end of the show I managed a swift goodbye to an amazing crew here at TRP- a pleasure to have been working with you all, and even got to say a quick “hello ” and “Goodbye” to the Twins- Gary & Paul from The Twins FX. They were loading the biggest Rat in Pantoland as I was leaving!

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Its been a cracking Pantomime, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working alongside my “son” Andy Ford- we’ve had a great season.

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Thank you Qdos, Thank You Plymouth Theatre Royal for a Pantomime that we were all proud of. From all of us here in Plymouth Pantoland, The Cast, The Creatives, The Musicians, The Crew and “Team Felicity”- Goodbye and thank you for reading this Dame’s Devon Diary! Let me know your comments on info@its-behind-you.com.

Cheers!

Nigel

 

Friday 11th January. Penultimate!

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Our Last but one day! Two performances- both packed. The Matinee had 1,300 school children in- Hello Mr Arundel- I made your afternoon fun! The Evening packed to the rafters and a great Audience. This afternoon we had a visit from Mark Sherwood, Head of Production for Qdos. Great to see Mark again, and a brief catch-up. He is on his 23rd Panto today!

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Nigel & Sylvia Blackler

A nostalgic day- Today I met up with Sylvia Blackler, in the Front Of House Cafe. Sylvia, along with Soozie Copley dressed Peter Robbins and me when we were last here in Plymouth Panto- in 2004/5. The Pantomime was “Cinderella” with Brian Conley as Buttons. It ran until January 22nd!

At that time it was Sylvia’s Twentieth Pantomime working at TRP. She had dressed The Best! Jack Tripp, Les Dawson, Danny La Rue Brian Godfrey and Jeffrey Holland!

Back in 2004 the wardrobe team had Cheryl and Donna who, if I recall dressed our Ensemble- the lads were Michael Laidler and Philip Dwzonkovich, Soozie and Sylvia dressed Peter and me as The Sisters, and Nicky was floating- a term used when you dress more than one person and move all over the place! Sean Neeham and Jody Crozier were Prince and Dandini, with Rachel Spry as Fairy. Rachel was here at TRP last season in “Peter Pan”.

Soozie I had worked with previously in the early 1970’s, when she Stage Managed a Leicester Haymarket Pantomime with scenery and costumes made by Terry Parsons- This current “Dick Whittington” set & Costumes (except my own) are all by Terry. Pantoland is a small world!

Sylvia’s son Chris was working here on stage for a good while, at TRP and her Grandson Tom Blackler was Stage Elex with us for the past three weeks. Here’s Tom with Andy & I at the Theatre.

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Tom Blackler.

Now (thanks to Sylvia’s scrap book!) is a picture of Tom when I FIRST met him. In my Dressing Room in 2004. He’s not changed a scrap! Here he is with Sister Amy!

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Amy, Peter Robbins, Myself & Tom

Here is a moment of nostalgia from those “Cinderella” days of fourteen Years Ago. Lovely to recall the memories Sylvia!

 Rachel Spry, and I’m wearing the same Finale!

Brian Conley, and a Dressers Night Out!

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And now, back to the future! Two shows remain, so the Company headed off to the pub behind the Theatre, and enjoyed a few drinks. Tomorrow will fly past in a flurry of packing and saying hasty farewells as we all depart for homes around the country. Tonight we said goodbye to one team of juviniles- The Red Team. An amazing set of young people. Total dedication and a joy to be on stage with them , and The same for the Blue Team!

Heres to Two Fabulous shows in Pantoland tomorrow!

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Thursday 10th January. Meet The Crew!

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Two shows today. The matinee was almost entirely made up of over 1,200 school children. Andy Ford declared in all his years of panto this was the loudest response to a Ghost Gag ever heard! It was incredible! The energy of these Primary School Children was incredible. They kept us on top form throughout! I picked poor Mr Howe from Shakespeare Primary School to be Felicity’s Boyfriend. That was the highlight of the school term it would appear!

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Meet The Crew!

Backstage one of my favourite things is watching the scenery move into place. Trucks are pushed into position, meeting up with cloths that fly in, and in a few moments the Shop has been removed and a Ship has taken its place. Staircases are upended, lights and smoke machines appear and disappear, and it is a constant ballet of scenery!

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Dave P Elex setting the Pyros. JB at the Elex Desk.

To make this happen the TRP stage crew go into action. As a major touring house it is their forte. Get-ins, fit ups, get-outs and the smooth handling of the visiting companies scenery and stage electrical effects are part and parcel of their daily job.

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Here we have around fourteen crew members for the Pantomime.

Ian O’Sullivan is the TRP’s Technical Stage Manager.Jo Furse is his Deputy. Chief LX is Steve Bennets with John Purkis, Rose, Dave Purkis LX,Rose, Tom Blackler LX, and currently JB on stage elex . Mylen and Tash on follow spots- high up in the roof of the auditorium, and Barns, Luke, Felix, Jim ,Dave C , Peter H and Al on stage.

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Mylen & Tash

Ian Penrose and Jannine Aird are on sound for this production. Apologies for anyone I’ve missed!

Here is a picture of the Crew I took fourteen Years Ago!

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Stage door at TRP is constantly manned morning through to late evening. Janette Owen and Tracy on duty in the morning, with Jill and Steve from 4-8pm and in the evening Janette Compitus and Phil look after the Stage Door until the theatre closes.

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Wardrobe Mistress for TRP is Delia Lancaster, with Ryan Wilce and Teresa Gill onstage, and makers/alterations by Jerry, Fiona and Jean.

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As you can see-there are a lot of people bringing the magic of theatre to Plymouth this Panto Season!

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Amy running prompt corner.  Spin & Nigel in the wings

Second show was a packed and jolly house. Had two visitors to this performance- My Brother Vivyan and Owen Smith, and a bite to eat afterwards around the corner from the Theatre.

Two shows tomorrow. Meeting Sylvia Blackler before the matinee- fourteen years ago this wonderful lady was dressing me in “Cinderella” here in 2004. Can’t wait to catch up with her before the show!

 

 

Relaxed Performance Wednesday 9th Jan

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Today was our Relaxed Perfrormance at TRP , with an earlier start of 12.20pm. The front three rows of the stalls were removed and wheelchair users were given ample space to watch the show. There was a great buzz and atmosphere in the auditorium, and the show went up with lights on in the auditorium, all exit doors open- you could see traffic passing by in the street infront of the theatre from the stage, and reduced sound levels and no loud effects or “blinder” lighting effects.

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Daryl McMullan

The star of today’s show was the absolutely superb and talented Daryl McMullan, a British Sign Language Interpreter who put heart and soul into the “signing” performance and was a huge hit with audience and cast alike! Plymouth based Daryl gave a brilliant performance, altering his face and his style to adapt to each character he was interpreting, and was word perfect in every single song lyric. What an amazing talent!

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The show was a joy to be a part of, and afterwards we got to meet up backstage with some of the organisers and volunteers of The Funky Llama project that TRP has been raising money for with daily collections after the performances. It was a pleasure!

A rare outing for this Dame- I actually took my make-up off and went out for a bite with Andy Ford. My first time outside between shows in a month! We had a full three hours break before the half, so it was an odd feeling seeing daylight! I enjoyed my late lunch!

Several of the “Dick Whittington” Company went bowling last night after the show, and had a great night out in the Barbican. Here are a few photos to mark the event!

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The Bowling Team!

The second show today was very jolly- The thoughts are already turning to packing. I’ve started to bring a few things down from the dressing room to the wicker skip I have in the corridor downstairs.Lots of visitors this week too, starting with Cardiff Based Rob Thorne, musician and Pantomime Musical Director- A friend of Amy, Joe and myself. I had the huge joy of touring for several years with Rob’s Uncle Peter Thorne, a well loved Pantomime Dame, sadly no longer with us. Peter & I did many tours and pantomimes- for several years he played Narrator in the extensive “Rocky Horror Show”tour that played the UK and Europe, With David Ian and Jonathan Kiley appearing in it.

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Rob Thorne with me after the show

A great night in the pub catching up, and joined by somel of the TRP Stage Crew and technicians. More crew pics to follow shortly! Catching the guys altogether is no easy task!

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Visitors tomorrow- my Brother Vivyan Ellacott and Owen Smith. I’ll be looking forward to meeting up between shows and they’ll be in to see the second show tomorrow!

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Tuesday 8th January 2019

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Meet The Band!

We have five musicians hidden away in the orchestra pit. Seldom seen but always heard. A magnificent array of skills and talents running from left to right we have:

Craig Walker on Bass, Alex Smith on percussion, Joe Hood- Musical Director and Keyboard, Katie Punter on Saxaphone & Flute and Rosanne Duckworth on Trumpet and Flugel Horn.

From our viewpoint on stage we can only see Joe, and we have him in real life and on two monitors mounted on the front of the circle. The others sadly are out of sight to us- unless we fell in the pit. We do see them in the flesh though when they have the odd drink after the show! They keep music alive and well and a magnificent job they do of it.

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What is a pantomime without expert sound operation? We have the team of Ian Penrose number one sound and Jannine number two backstage throughout the show, ensuring sound levels, microphones and all things audio are going well!

Here’s Ian in his nest at the back of the auditorium.

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Today’s two shows zipped along at a jaunty pace. Both shows very busy and fast moving. There is an air of “last week” now, with thoughts on packing up and clearing up before we finish on Saturday.

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Time to start packing up and moving out!

Before we do though, there are eight more shows left. Tomorrow’s matinee is an early one, and one that each year in every theatre is even more magical. It is our “Relaxed” performance. This show will ensure that our audience can relax and enjoy the show whatever needs they may have, and not be overloaded with the pyros and loud noises and dark auditorium that would otherwise deter them from enjoying a Pantomime performance.

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Three rows of seats will be removed, giving more access for wheelchairs. The auditorium doors remain open with areas set aside in the foyer to chill if the need to leave the auditorium arises. The lights remain on in the auditorium and flashes, bangs and the like are not used during the show.We also have a signed performance at the same time. Its a great show to be a part of.

The show starts tomorrow at 12.30pm. I’ll be in the theatre at 11.30am. So I’ll stop typing this and get some sleep! Tomorrow we are on at 12.30pm and at 7pm. I will remove make-up and go out between shows for the first time this Panto Season!

 

 

 

Sat-Sun 5th & 6th January 2019

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The Rat Pack!

Saturday and Sunday blurred into one- or rather four shows. A real case for me of leave Hotel room, enter Dressing room, do shows- sleep- do shows, and return to Hotel Room! Best thing when you are on lemsip and have a poorly swollen thumb!

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You can strain your thumb taking your bloomers off apparently! I certainly did when the “Full Monty” style rip apart garments decided not to, and to remain very firmly stuck together despite many very strenuous attempts!  Normally they are American Bloomers- “One Yank And They’re Off!” Not on Sat Mat they weren’t.

I ended up with two layers un- stripped and a sprained thumb. Have you had an accident at work? Well, yes- I was yanking my bloomers off when…….

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Both shows Saturday were great, and a lovely standing ovation at the end. Nice full houses. Sunday second show was not as full because tomorrow the schools go back, and it is effectively a “school Night”. A great house though, and fun to play to.

Between showsand in the interval the company chill (yes, I know these street words…) in their dressing rooms. Here are just a few examples.

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Spin, John, Ryan and Andy backstage

Daisy has a very large jigsaw to complete- this is her second. Its Disney Princess themed!

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The backstage area is very minimalist at TRP- it has a similarity to The National Theatre, and has exposed walls, ceilings and pipework. The corridors are long and functional, livened up by literally hundreds of photos of previous productions.

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Here’s the magnificent Les Dawson in “Dick Whittington” at the end of a corridor.

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Les as Sarah The Cook

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photos by Steve Tanner

Over Saturday and Sunday many Pantomimes around the country are finishing.Southampton with Andrew Ryan as Sarah The Cook on Sunday, and Liverpool with my mate John Evans has now ended its run. When I return in a week’s time there will still be a chance to see the Kenneth More’s “Aladdin” at Ilford- and finally see the results of all the work I put in during the Summer- a lot of costumes!

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Here’s our John Lumsden as Dick Whittington, alongside Clarice Mayne in the same role in the Edwardian Era.

Traditions hold and they can be tweaked. The traditional Dame Name for Dick Whittington is Sarah The Cook. But not always. I am Felicity Fitzwarren in this production. In the past ” she has been “Cecily Suet”- over the course of time she has been” Daphne Dumpling” (for Julian Wylie & the Palladium), Martha the Cook (1920’s,1930’s & for Tom Arnold) and Eliza The Cook at Drury Lane 1895 played by Herbert Campbell. Constantly updating itself- thats why Panto survives!

I’m surviving on lemsip for now- and a whole day off to recharge! See you on Tuesday!