Lichfield Garrick is staging one of the few pantos still set to take place in the region this Christmas. Jenny Amphlett met the socially distanced cast
All pantomimes are cancelled this Christmas. Oh no they’re not. That plucky lot at the Lichfield Garrick have found a way for the show to go on this festive season. Oh yes they have.
They’ve put together a slimmed down cast of five for a production of Jack and the Beanstalk, some of whom will be back on stage for the first time since restrictions first started in March.
They will be socially distanced from one another, the audience will sit in household bubbles and there will be no intervals – but most importantly of all the magic of Christmas will still be there.
Panto-lovers of all ages can join Jack and Jackie on their adventure of a lifetime as they are tricked by arch-villain Flesh Creep, climb a giant beanstalk to a giant’s lair and pick up a monkey named Gordon. Will the siblings be able to work together and will Dame Trott ever find the man of her dreams?
The bite-sized panto is a condensed version of the famous fable. It has a shortened run time of 75 minutes so that audience members don’t mingle during an interval and to allow three shows to be delivered each day.
Karen Foster, the theatre’s chief executive, said: “We are full of beans here at the Garrick as we have managed to bring a wonderful, fun show, with a smaller, safer cast size, to fill the festive season with laughter and cheer, a full spectrum of COVID-safe measures to reassure our patrons, and even some brand new jokes.
“After a most unusual year, we look forward to spending two weeks bringing the very best antidote to your seasonal blues, right here in Lichfield, right here in your local theatre and right here in your very own bubbles. We look forward to celebrating with you.”
Sam Rabone, from just down the road is Streetly, is returning for his fifth Lichfield Garrick panto. He will be back in a dress as Dame Trott and is also directing the production this time.
He said: “I’m so excited to be back at the Garrick for what is going to be a huge treat but with a bite-sized feel. With very few pantomimes in the Midlands, it is amazing to be part of one of the few festive shows that are happening.
“The Garrick along with Evolution smash it every year, and this year is going to be no different. With audiences chomping at the bit to get in, we cannot wait to entertain them, bring laughter and make it feel like Christmas…all in a COVID-secure way.
“It’s going to be the smallest panto that Lichfield has ever seen, and we can’t wait. We’ll all have been spending the lockdown socially distanced and isolated from one another and then going into rehearsal once the lockdown is lifted.
“It’s going to be great to be back on a stage in front of a proper audience – it’ll be my first proper theatre show since January 5.
“I do feel very proud that Lichfield Garrick was one of the first theatres in the country to announce that it would be staging a panto as long as it’s legal to do so.”
Sam’s co-stars will include ventriloquist Max Fulham, as Jack, and his talking monkey friend Gordon, who will be playing himself in the show.
Max will be a familiar face to some of the youngest audience members as he’s appeared on TV in CBBC’s Crackerjack.
“It’ll be my first time working in Lichfield, but not my first panto,” he said. “I’m looking forward to spending some time in the area after lockdown in a bubble with Gordon the Monkey.
“I do feel very lucky to be part of one of the few pantos taking place this year. People need the chance to have a smile and a laugh more than ever.”
It’ll be the first ever panto performance for Lorraine Brown, who is more used to travelling around the world as a singer than dressing up as Fairy Sugarsnap. But she says she’s quickly realised how important pantomimes are for children.
“I sprinkle fairy dust everywhere I go anyway, but as soon as I put my fairy costume on I realised that children would see me as a real life fairy.
“At the panto launch I was standing outside the Garrick having my photo taken and some little girls walked past. Their mouths dropped open and they started waving. I wondered why for a moment and then realised it was the costume.
“I know that lots of little girls will be asking me where I got my fairy dress from and I will do my very best to be a magical Christmas fairy for them.
“Pantomimes are really important for so many people. It’s important that the show goes ahead in this wonderful venue.”
Counterbalancing the kind fairy will be Tim Hudson as the evil Flesh Creep. I’ll whisper this, but he was actually very nice indeed.
“This will be my 21st panto but my first in Lichfield. It’s been a bleak year in some respects, certainly with working as an actor, but I’ve been able to do a lot of home schooling with my 12-year-old son.
“The whole cast are very grateful to have this chance to be back on stage in front of an audience. Panto is so important. It’s the first experience of theatre for so many children.
“Everybody needs something to smile about after this year – it’s been a desolate time in so many other respects. When they come to the theatre people can let their hair down, celebrate the season and have a really well deserved laugh.”
The cast is completed by Victoria McCabe as Jackie.
- Tickets for the panto are selling fast – oh yes they are – and can be purchased from lichfieldgarrick.com or by calling the box office on 01543 412121.