James Haddrell Column – Panto Rehearsals Begin

The set model for Cinderella will be unveiled at the first day of rehearsal

I am writing this before heading in to meet the company for the first day of rehearsal for our annual pantomime. Like Christmas itself, this has become something of a tradition. We always start on the first day of half term, and as well as the actors, the director and the musical director, we meet with the set and costume designer, sound and lighting designers, the stage management team and everyone else involved in making the show, including the regular staff from the theatre, to launch the rehearsals together. The set model is unveiled, so that everyone can see exactly how we are going to make Cinderella’s home, the prince’s ballroom and all the other locations; we look at the costume designs together, and then the cast read through the script.

The festive season is obviously one loaded with tradition, from the global to the individual. At home people will all have their traditional ways of celebrating, and at the theatre we have our own traditions, from the rehearsal room to the opening of the show.

However, this year we are adding a second element to our festive celebrations at the theatre, a second show to mark the end of the first year of programming in our new studio – and it is a show all about discovering old traditions and making your own new ones.

Created by Sharklegs the show, called SNOW-POCALYPSE, is set in a future long after Christmas has been forgotten, where two characters live together in a scrap yard. They may be the last two people in the world. They have their own traditions, their own routines, but then one day they find a book.

It is a book all about Christmas, so they set about trying to recreate it from the things they find around them. Kezia Cole, one of the show’s two creators, explained a bit more to me… “We all have an idea of what the ‘perfect’ Christmas is supposed to look like. These Christmases are beautiful and perfect but usually unrecognisable – our real winter times never look like that! Some Christmases may have 1 parent, some may have 2 dads, or a step-mother. Some Christmases may be filled with burnt turkey, some may have no presents and no tree, while others may be spent with friends and not families. Each of these Christmases seem vastly different, but they are all special because what makes Christmas magical isn’t the presents or the dinners, it is spending time with the people we love.”

“In this new show we celebrate a very odd and quirky unconventional family. Trilby and The Boot would never have chosen to be together, but no one can choose their family, can they? We are delighted to be presenting this new show in the studio at Greenwich Theatre. It’s a lovely versatile space that offers so much. We are so pleased to be able to take it over for the season and create our very own Magical Wintery Cave for our characters Trilby and The Boot!”

For hundreds of years theatre has occupied a place in many people’s traditional Christmas. Across the country people go to their local pantomime as part of their festive celebrations, and other theatres have built strong traditions around other types of festive show. Here in Greenwich this year, in the now one-year- old Greenwich Theatre Studio, I’d like to think a new tradition is being born.