St Faith's Church, Walsworth, Hitchin
An Anglican and Methodist Local Ecumenical Partnership
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St Faith's Pantomime 2009: Sleeping Jack Whittington and the Seven Bears

We were fortunate to have 3 sold out performances of Jack Whittington and the 7 Bears at St. Faith’s and those who came could hardly recognise our church: it had been so cleverly transformed into a theatre for the weekend. 

The idea to revive the pantomime tradition at St. Faith’s had been mooted as long ago as last summer and rehearsals began in early September.  Penny Mitchell, our inspired producer and director, brought to the production the benefit of her many years of experience with the “Fairfield Players” drama group and we were fortunate to have as our wardrobe mistress, Eve Howe, who has been involved with  “Letchworth Arcadians” costumes over many years.  She made a large number of the costumes for our pantomime to a very high standard.  Tim Mitchell spent many hours arranging the music and was able to obtain the services of his friends to make up the trio who added greatly to the musical content of the performances.

From its title you might guess that this pantomime, written originally for a school , combined several well-known panto stories and so gave great scope for many performers, mostly in relatively small, yet high profile parts.  This had the advantage of allowing for a large cast with an age range from quite tiny to over eighties and since most of the parts were small, those with no previous experience of treading the boards were more willing to have a go when there were not many lines to learn.  Having so many folk involved both back stage and on stage (as well as front of house, chaperones etc) was very advantageous in many ways, and it was great to see everyone pulling together and  committed to producing a very entertaining show for the audiences.  Perhaps one of the disadvantages which seemed daunting in the early stages was that with such a large cast it was often difficult for everyone to be there at every rehearsal, so there was quite a lot of reading in that went on and it was sometimes confusing to know who really was going to be the actor for a particular part.  However our director dealt well with this problem and was able to source alternative performers when some of those who had  originally expressed an interest just did not turn up to rehearsals at all!  Penny’s vision for the show was unwavering and she is not only a lady full of ideas but also  very willing to listen to other’s suggestions and use people’s talents  in every way she can.


Speaking of talent I must at least single out Lorna Kisby, who  was rarely off stage and held the story together with an outstanding performance - not only that, she made her own costume, helped paint some of the scenery, was part of the team who erected the stage and was always around to give the other performers (particularly the younger ones) encouragement and advice. 

One of the nice things was that the performers were not exclusively St. Faith’s folk and it was good to get to know, not only people from other churches in the town, but also children from schools and other groups  who responded to our appeal (launched at the Walsworth Festival) for anyone interested  to sign up.  Young and old mixed well together and it was particularly nice to see the teenage children, looking after the younger ones and  we all got to know each other a lot better than before.

So at the end of the day there were so many positives.  Those involved had all enjoyed the experience, we had made a significant amount of money for our church building project, friendships had been cemented and  new contacts made, and above all there had been this wonderful example of pulling together and giving 110%.  I think everyone involved can be justly proud of the end result, and the fact that we are already actively talking about next year’s pantomime is perhaps the most affirming thing of all.

Elizabeth Hill

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