Column by James Haddrell the artistic and executive director of Greenwich Theatre
The annual Greenwich pantomime is a major undertaking for us, the biggest show of the year by far, bringing together a large creative team from our unforgettable writer and musical director to stage management, designers, costume makers and more. Anyone who has been to a Greenwich Theatre pantomime will know how important the big musical numbers are. It is as much a musical as it is a comedy, and the song selection, musical arrangements for the live band, and the choreography all have to come together to create some unforgettable moments.
Last year we started working with new choreographers, the incredibly talented Paul Chantry and Rae Piper of Chantry Dance Company. Rae and Paul are known across the country for the work they have done on shows like Gangsta Granny and the Horrible Histories stage shows, but this year I am delighted to welcome them to Greenwich a bit early, before we get into pantomime rehearsals at the end of October, with a completely different family dance performance.
THE SANDMAN, set to play at Greenwich Theatre for one day only on 1 October, is a contemporary ballet featuring an original score by composer Tim Mountain. Based on the Hans Christian Andersen tale, it introduces the mysterious, mythical figure who brings sleep by dropping sand into the eyes of humans and uses a magical rainbow umbrella to impart good dreams, or a dark umbrella to send nightmares.
The ballet tells the story of a woman who is desperate to bring good dreams to her ailing husband – so desperate that she is willing to follow the Sandman into the Dream World to steal the dream umbrellas. There she meets many bizarre and entertaining characters including the timid Monster-under-the-Bed, the Puppet who yearns for freedom from his strings, the Unformed Dreams and ultimately The Sandman himself. The woman steals the dream umbrellas and returns to the real world where she gives beautiful, magical dreams to her husband and others with the rainbow umbrella. But what will happen if the umbrellas get mixed up?
At first glance a family ballet seems completely different from a pantomime, but I am convinced that the audiences already booking in their thousands to see our annual festive show will be no less captivated by The Sandman. When we start to bring together all of the elements for the pantomime every year, the very first thing we think about, before all of the costumes, pyrotechnics and comedy routines, is the story. A Greenwich Theatre pantomime is not just a series of jokes or songs, not just a variety show, it is a story with a heart. This year, we hope that audiences for Cinderella will really care about her treatment at the hands of her horrible sisters, will follow the drama as much as they enjoy the comedy. CDC’s production of The Sandman promises to be no different – a fantastic piece of theatre, presented on stage with a host of theatrical tricks, but ultimately a good story well told for the whole family.
James Haddrell is the artistic and executive director of Greenwich Theatre