NODA Award Winning Panto Group
Some early memories from one of our group of how Panto began — to be taken with a large pinch of salt and a handful of fairy dust. So, as all good fairy stories beginâ€¦.
Once upon a time, in a small village not far from here, a fairy godmother descended upon a house without any stairs, waved her magic wand and said “Cinderella, you shall go to the Pantomime”.
And so, in a well-know theatre in Cumberland Road, for two nights only, two young wives groups staged their very first pantomime.
Ladies only one stage, please! Well, most of the time!
Cinderella did go to the ball, caught a panto bug and has been recovering for the past thirty years.
Visiting characters arrive yearly and now stay for the week, eight performances over seven days.
Jack has climbed his beanstalk, Aladdin rubbed the magic lamp, Dick Whittington was elected mayor and Beauty slept through it all. Oh no she didn’t, oh yes she did!
Little did I suspect that, when the idea came to perform a pantomime all those years ago, we would still be enjoying the challenge, the romance
and the magic today.
If Jackie and Sally and the girls from Southwold Young Wives and Reydon St Margaret’s Club has said “No way”, the past and the future would be very different.
Of course, our very first performance of Cinderella nearly didn’t happen. First night nerves caught up with Cissie who walked on stage ready to say the immortal first line of the panto “Have you heard about the Ball?” — and nothing happened. Thankfully there were enough people on stage to help her out.
Many people have caught the panto bug over the past thirty years, we still have seven original members: Gill, Jackie, Julie, Molly, Sally, Sheila and myself. There are many members who have been involved over twenty and twenty-five years and also some with only a few pantos under their belts. We have many former members who are not with us today, so we say thank you and raise a toast to “absent friends”
There are so many lasting memories, too many to write here.
For this is our Panto, where fairy tales come to life, with a little help from drama, slapstick, smiles and laughter.
And so to finishâ€¦Thank you to you, our audience, for all the support you have give us through the years. Oh yes you did!
So, as the call goes up “Overture and beginners please”, we are always happy and excited to present our latest pantomime.
Being a member of the St Margaret’s Club in 1980 I was invited to a meeting by the Southwold Young Wives Club. It had been suggested that a local pantomime could be put on by the two groups. We discussed this and all seemed in favour.
Volunteers were requested and, as I had never been on stage before or been involved in anything similar, I put myself forward to sell programmes and help ‘front of house’. How I got talked into taking the part of Prince Charming I shall never know, but I remember it had something to do with the length of my hair being nearly down to my knees!
I still recall the terrifying experience of being on stage — I froze and lost my voice. I had to go on ‘Quiet Life’ tablets to calm me down. The most frightening thing was having to sing a song, as I am completely tone deaf this was an impossible task. I finally ended up speaking the words to the song “If a Picture Paints a Thousand Words”. I cannot hear that song, even now, without trembling!
All of this happened over thirty years ago and since then I have been in almost every Panto, as well as acting, I have taken on the role of scriptwriting and producing.
Little did I know that one meeting would lead to so much. I thoroughly enjoy being in the group and feel passionate about the Pantomime as it is something for local people, by local people, to brighten up January in Southwold, as well as helping charities and giving back to the community.
When Jackie spoke to me, all those years ago, about joining a group of girls to put on a Pantomime I must admit that I was a bit unsure. It was 17 years since I had done any acting.
I said I would join as long as I was only in the chorus. I was paired with Gill and found we shared a sense of humour and we became good friends.
I have had a go at most parts, good and bad, but never Principal Girl or Principal Boy (too old now I fear!) and have enjoyed every one of them.
It was 11th June 1980 when a few members of St Edmund’s Church Young Wives and Reydon St Margaret’s Club go together. We thought we would put on a pantomime early the next year to amuse ourselves and perhaps entertain the public. Little did we know how it would snowball into what we have now, over 30 years later.
I am proud to say that I am one of the instigators of the group and along with seven others have worked on all productions to date, meeting and making lots of new friends who have come into the group. It has been great.
We have a number of younger members now so hopefully the Reydon and Southwold Pantomime Group will successfully go on for many more years.
In 1980 when I was thirty-one
Sitting at home not having much fun
With husband and children nine, eleven and four
Happy of course but looking for more
“St Margaret’s Club, for local young wives
Is starting a group, acting pantomimes live!”
Cinderella, the panto, was being writ
So I joined the chorus, cos I’d sung a bit.
Well that was the start and the crowds called for more
We’d do it again, that was for sure
Year after year, our run got longer
Acting, Singing and dancing got stronger.
We wrote our own scripts, designed our own scenes
Mad costumes and props from cows to Jack’s beans.
Many friends have joined us and all done their bit
To make each production a sure-fire hit.
I’ve played all sort of characters, too many to mention
And now I’m old and collecting my pension
I’ve loved every moment and made so many friends
So many productions, all with happy ends!
For our very first Panto “Cinderella”, we used to rehearse in the Scout Hall, also a few in the old Church Hall in Reydon.
We had difficulty with a pianist for rehearsals so I persuaded my daughter Margaret to play for us, which she did very well, but was not confident enough to play for the performances. I remember going to Kessingland to fetch a Mrs Rudd who played for us. Margaret and her friend Tracy played their violins for the performances.
I’ve always enjoyed costume making and used to go to The Mount on the seafront to help Daphne with costumes for the first few Pantos.
We held jumble sales in the Church Hall to raise funds for Panto expenses. Over the years we have had some very chilly weather production days. Snow and ice — a few times preventing our audience from turning up, although the cast always made it!
I have many memories over the years, far too many to share. However I do remember sitting in the casualty department at the James Paget Hospital with my hair gelled down and a centre parting. Luckily the rest of my costume was trousers, shirt and waistcoat — not a goose!
I know my friend Jackie and I thoroughly enjoyed playing the Ugly Sisters and I was pleased to see Cinderella (Brenda) in my wedding dress which had lain in its box since 1963.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my years with the Panto group and it has been good to see it flourishing so well and giving enjoyment to so many audiences.