It's behind you! How theatre company has made 50 years of panto magic
- Credit: Lowestoft Players
It's been a traditional festive treat that has provided laughs aplenty in a coastal town for more than 50 years.
Popular amateur dramatics society, The Lowestoft Players, have been staging pantomimes for the enjoyment of the town for 51 years.
Sadly this year, due to Covid-19 restrictions, it is not possible to put on a show.
So we've trawled the archives and teamed up with the Lowestoft Players for this special pantomime feature.
With pantomime often being a child’s first experience of live theatre, the first Lowestoft Players pantomime, Cinderella, was performed at The Sparrows Nest Theatre in 1968.
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Since then, there have been 53 pantomimes over 51 years for the Lowestoft Players featuring 13 different titles and a total of 545 individual performances in that time.
With the last pantomime being Aladdin at The Marina Theatre in 2020, Lowestoft Players pantos over the years have been enjoyed by a total audience of 321,500 people.
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There have been 459 main characters and 14,000 costumes worn in this time
The very popular Cinderella was the first pantomime staged by The Lowestoft Players in 1968 in The Sparrows Nest Theatre, Lowestoft.
This theatre was built in 1913 and was demolished in 1991 when the Lowestoft Players moved their shows to the Marina Theatre in Lowestoft.
Back in 1968, Cinderella was warmly received by the town and with the Lowestoft Players staging annual pantomimes ever since, over the years the shows have become more extravagant with hired in scenery and special technical effects.
So what makes a good pantomime?
Stephen Wilson has been a member of the Lowestoft Players for 46 years.
Well known for his role as a Dame, he said: “Creating a pantomime is like making a cake, there are certain ingredients which must be included so that it can be enjoyed by everyone.
"The obvious ingredients are good characters - some good, some evil and some comical.
"Everyone expects to laugh during a pantomime, even if the jokes are old and a little corny!
"There’s also music, song, dance, love, hate and peril all performed wearing fabulous costumes in front of a backdrop of colourful and eye catching scenery.
"Probably the most important ingredient of all is a happy ending.
"Everyone loves a happy ending.”
With it being traditional for some male characters to be played by females and some female characters to be played by men – pantomime dames often get the biggest laughs.
Some favourite costumes for Lowestoft dames have included an English breakfast complete with three dimensional sausages and fried eggs or a birthday cake with a hat in the style of a candle.
Behind the scenes, work starts around 14 months in advance for the Lowestoft Players when the title of the pantomime is first decided upon.
Each show requires a small army of backstage volunteers, as each pantomime can have over 200 lighting changes.
Scenes containing ‘slapstick’ are always very popular and usually exceptionally messy.
But did you know that the ‘gunge’ used in these scenes is actually made from the creamy dessert of Angel Delight?
The past pantomimes performed by The Lowestoft Players include:
Aladdin – 1970, 1978, 1984, 1990, 1997, 2004, 2010, 2020
Babes in the Wood – 1971, 1981,1988
Beauty and the Beast – 1996, 2001, 2009, 2014
Cinderella – 1968, 1976, 1983, 1989, 1994, 2000, 2005, 2000, 2012, 2018
Dick Whittington – 1979, 1985, 1991, 2002, 2016
Jack and the Beanstalk – 1973, 1980, 1986, 1992, 2000, 2007, 2015
Mother Goose – 1975
Puss in Boots – 1977, 1987
Robin Hood – 2011
Robin Hood and Babes in the Wood – 1995, 2019
Robinson Crusoe – 1974
Sleeping Beauty – 1972, 1982, 1998, 2003, 2013
Snow White – 1993, 1999, 2006, 2017
With the popular pantomime of Beauty and Beast due to be performed by The Lowestoft Players at The Marina Theatre this month, don’t worry, you won’t miss out as it has been postponed until January 2022.