HETHERSETT PANTOMIME - A VILLAGE TRADITION
For a review and more photos from the 2007 production click here
When Duncan Pigg wrote his first pantomime in 1970 he never dreamed that he would still be coming up with ideas and scripts almost four decades later.
Duncan's 38th Hethersett Pantomime will be performed in the village hall from January 20th to 27th. There will be nine performances of Jack and the Beanstalk. Duncan admits that his enthusiasm has never waned over the years.
"I never seem to run out of ideas. I have a whole year to think about things and there's always current trends that can be included. I start thinking about the panto in the summer and we have a pre-production meeting in September and kick around ideas from there," he said.
Over the years the number of people involved in the productions has more than doubled. The 1970 version of Sleeping Beauty involved 33 people. This year over 70 will be involved either on stage or off.
It will also mark a landmark for producer Sarah Wright who will be in charge of her 10th panto. The Wright/Pigg partnership continues to flourish as the productions become much more hit-tech with computer graphics helping to plan scenery this year.
"When we started we had four pieces of 8 by 4 hardboard which we switched around. Now thanks to grants from South Norfolk District Council and the village hall management committee we have automatic back drops and superb scenery thanks to the skill of Colin Wilson," Duncan said.
Over the years the panto has raised almost £50,000 for various charities. Last year's charities to benefit included Musical Keys, St Matthew's House, Friends of Woodside First School, Hethersett Middle School PTA, Hethersett Parish Church, Hethersett Methodist Church and Wymondham Roman Catholic Church.
This year both the script and scenery contain local and topical references and there will be one or two surprises along the way.
Sarah explained that as producer one of her major satisfactions is seeing members of the cast develop:
"We see people with potential and try and bring them on. We have a huge range of age groups taking part and they mix so well together. We have a lovely group of children. It is great that youngsters can go on stage and do something for the community," Sarah said.
So what does pantomime mean to Duncan and Sarah:
"I love the variety of being able to use different music. I have a wide taste in music and our pantos are very musical," Duncan said. Indeed the first ever pantomime was referred to as "A musical fairy tale."
"I still find it great fun and it is wonderful that the teenagers still accept me at the age of 80," Duncan said.
"We really don't have any prima donnas," Sarah added.
The success of Hethersett's annual pantomime is reflected in the fact that people attend from all over Norfolk as well as from the north of England and the London area. Two former Hethersett residents have also travelled from their home in Turkey.
If you ask Duncan and Sarah what makes a good pantomime, they are very swift to put together a list of ingredients which include the following:
Indeed panto gives the audience the chance to forget the stressed and strains of modern life for a few hours - it is pure escapism.
Duncan is already thinking about pantomime 39 in 2008.
"The group is in such great shape that they could carry on without me," he added.
I think that Duncan is just being too modest!
© Peter Steward 2007
To view an article on the history of pantomime in Hethersett along with a list of productions click here.