Panto bringing the festive frolicks – and frilly bras

We go behind the scenes of Horncastle Theatre Company’s new show Little Red Riding Hood

Dame Granny dances with an unwilling suitor. EMN-211217-092138001
Dame Granny dances with an unwilling suitor. EMN-211217-092138001

When we think of pantomimes, we imagine slapstick humour and pantomime dames wearing voluminous dresses and the audience shouting: “he’s behind you!”

But there’s so much more to it than that, with not only a dedicated cast learning lines and dance routines and choreography, and a hard-working team working behind the scenes to make sure the show looks as professional as possible.

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We went along to Horncastle Theatre Company’s dress rehearsal of their 2022 pantomime Little Red Riding Hood to see what it takes to make a pantomime to be proud of.

Directors Gail Hinkins and Isabel Forrester giving stage help. EMN-211217-092218001

This year’s show is co-directed by Gail Hinkins and Isabel Forrester, who has also written the script.

Isabel said the cast and crew always have such a good time, which is then translated into the fabulous show they put on at the Lion Theatre:

“It’s like one big party here – we rehearse in the run up to Christmas and it’s one of the highlights of everyone’s year. Even when it’s really cold and dark at this time of year, everyone has so much fun.”

Although Isabel wrote the script, as it’s a pantomime, ad-libbing is encouraged, especially when the audience get a little raucous: “It’s a real collaboration between all of us, the cast have put in a lot of their own ideas and the cast are encouraged to try their own jokes too,” Isabel said, “We’ve got some great talent here in the town and because it’s a Horncastle pantomime, we’ve got lots of in-jokes and some long-standing running gags as well.”

Waiting in the wings. EMN-211217-092148001

Dealing with the audience’s cheeky comments will be this year’s pantomime dame Chris Liversidge, who hadn’t been a dame before until he had to step in to fill the dame’s shoes at the last minute in 2019’s Zorro! due to illness.

But now he’s back to don the frilly bloomers and wigs, and he said the audience’s participation is all part of the fun for him: “The audience makes the show, and it’s always fun adlibbing when they talk back to you – if I can come up with something funny quickly,” he laughed.

As well as the talented cast working their socks off on-stage to remember their lines, the company has a hard-working behind-the-scenes team working hard to source all the props, costumes, set pieces and much more.

Amanda Eastwood is one of those members, who is working on props for Little Red Riding Hood and, for the first time this year, puppetry.

The cats and crew of Horncastle Theatre Companys pantomime Little Red Riding Hood. EMN-211217-092118001

She said: “I got involved with the company because I needed a social activity for myself and I’ve always enjoyed doing it – I was made to feel so welcome and it’s been fantastic. It’s such a community here.”

Isabel said that every effort was being made to keep both the performers and the audience safe in these pandemic times – everyone in the cast and crew is asked to take a lateral flow test before attending rehearsals and and wear masks when not on stage.

Little Red Riding Hood will be performed at The Lion Theatre at 7.30pm on Thursday 27, Friday 28 and Saturday 29 January, and Wednesday 2, Thursday 3, Friday 4 and Saturday 5 February 2022, as well as 3pm matinee performances on Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 January, and Saturday 5 February.

Tickets are available by visiting horncastletheatre.co.uk/book-tickets/ or from Co-op Travel on Bridge Street.