At a Potterne Country Fair meeting in the mid 1980’s, someone had the bright idea to stage a pantomime at Christmas, which would be a fund-raiser to help pay for the organisation expenses of the Fair in the summer!
That first panto was staged in December 1985 and the theme was “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. It was written and directed by the Headteacher of the village school, Bob Watt; his wife Nicky took the lead role and the line-up of dwarfs included the landlady of the George & Dragon, Ann Smith, plus other well-known members of the local community. Playing the part of “Happy” that year was Tony Bailey. Tony and his wife, Rachel, are the only remaining members of the original production, who are still involved with the panto today and Tony has appeared in every pantomime and spin-off shows over the years. What role will he play this year? Time will tell!
The Pantomime soon became a major part of the village calendar and it has been well supported by a number of villagers over the years. The Pantomime also became one of the most important elements of the Country Fair’s fund-raising activities and after a few years, the Country Fair committee decided to abandon the Fair and concentrate solely on the pantomime; the Group re-named itself “Potterne Panto Group”. Over the years, the Group has donated thousands of pounds to local charities and village groups, on average £1,200 to £1,500 per year.
With the exception of the very first production and the production of Mary Poppins at Easter in 1993, Potterne Pantomime takes place at Potterne Village Hall during the February half-term each year with an invited audience on the Wednesday evening, public performances on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. There is also a matinee on the Saturday. In 2015 performances will be Wednesday – Saturday, 18th – 21st February.
Over the years the themes of the pantomimes have included the majority of well-known fairytales, e.g. Cinderella, as well as some original stories, e.g. “Tales of the Golden B’Hind” and the majority of scripts have been written “in-house” by Jackie Sawyer. It was decided that this year’s theme would return to the “Snow White” tale, although the script will be entirely different!
There have been many memorable moments in 30 years, but how many groups staging “Cinderella” have “lost” their Fairy Godmother? We did! Well, she was temporarily “lost” as she was trapped under the stage in the basement area, when some over-zealous backstage helper closed the trapdoor. Buttons appealed to the audience to help call for the Fairy Godmother, the audience responded in true loud and enthusiastic fashion, which meant that the Fairy’s shouts and knocks on the trapdoor went unheard! Eventually, she made it on to the stage, looking somewhat flustered and her wand bent on an angle!
The pantomime involves a wide gamut of talented people – not just those who tread the boards showcasing their acting, singing and dancing skills, but also a team of musicians, choreographer, costume ladies, scenery designers and painters, props makers, lighting and sound technicians, stage constructers, front of house and refreshments providers – all who are caught on camera by the multi-talented George Day.
There is a dedicated core of members, who have given 20 years + experience to the Group and they are keen to pass on their expertise to new and prospective members of the group. So if you would like to be involved with Potterne Panto Group, please contact the Brian Teeder on 01380 728147.
You can also join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/PotternePanto/