Eastergate Players celebrate a special landmark with this year’s pantomime: their 40th birthday.
Their first production was Aladdin in January 1977; and it’s to Aladdin they return for their anniversary production.
Georgina Jackson, a member of the company for more than half its existence, directs them for the second time, after success with Cinderella.
“After that first show, they have done one every year,” Georgina says.
“They have never missed one, which is pretty amazing. It started out as a PTA production and then branched out to include other people.
“When I joined, it had already lost that PTA association by that point, but because it is the 40th anniversary, we have been trying to contact original members of the group to get them to come along.
“We have definitely got a few that have performed through the years. And we have managed by hook or by crook to get a copy of every programme from the last 40 years. We will have display boards up.
“The company once did a murder mystery, but that was it.
“Apart from that, it has never expanded beyond the pantomime in January. It’s a hobby for most people.
“We meet up in September and we put on the show in January, but then you are usually starting to think about the next one.
“We only rehearse once a week whereas some other companies might rehearse twice a week, but everyone loves doing it and enjoys doing the pantomime.
“I directed two years ago, with Cinderella. I think I had forgotten just how hard work it is! This is the hard part, but the thrill is seeing the show at the end of it all and seeing all those little ideas you have had, either watching TV or in the middle of the night, coming to life on the stage.”
Georgina believes she is taking a slightly-different approach this time round.
“I think I have been more open to change this time than I was last time.
“When I did Cinderella, I had very rigid ideas about how everything should look. With Aladdin, I have adapted it a little bit more as we have gone through and added bits in.
“But there are certain things that I wanted right from the start. I really wanted to bring it to life on stage. A lot of amateur shows can look a little bit 2D at times. But Aladdin is set in China and you have got to have something that looks rich and opulent and exciting. I hope I have brought it more into 3D!
“We have got an amazing cast. There are probably about 20 to 25 which is fewer than we have had in the past, but a lot of the younger dancers go off to university and we are waiting for the next generation to come through.
“But what is brilliant is that we have got a mix of brand-new faces and people who were in it five to ten years ago and people that maybe did a show 20 years ago.
“It’s a really good mix, and the way everyone is working together and blending… well, it has me in stitches in rehearsals!
“And we are lucky that we have got a really loyal following. That’s the thing with having a pantomime in your village every year for 40 years.
“There is a lot of tradition and loyalty, and that’s why it will be nice to get past members coming along.”
Performances of Aladdin will be evenings at 7.30pm from Tuesday to Saturday, January 24-28 with a Saturday matinee at 2pm.
The venue will be Eastergate Parish Hall.
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