The Bishop Burton Events Group took on a real challenge this year in mounting "Sleeping Beauty" as its 2011 pantomime. And rise to the challenge they did as another stunning performance grabbed the audiences that descended on the village hall last week. Check out the photos in the Gallery.

We extended a warm welcome to some old and returning favourites and to some new stars rising rapidly in our firmament - especially that recent graduate of the Bishop Burton Academy of Dramatic Arts, Marianna Hankin, who must surely be set to follow in the footsteps of Dame Judi, an old school flame of our director, Mike ("I taught her all she knows") Lund MD.

This year the specialist pantomime reviewer of the Holderness Gazette joined the audience on the Friday night. She is on a tour of the village panto's of the area. [I suppose someone has to do it.] Will we measure up to her exacting standards? Will our show be fairly treated? Will she hack our mobile phones? We'll find out soon. In an exclusive interview with your reviewer, she revealed that she was particularly pleased that we had not hired costumes which we know were made by our brilliant costumier, Ann Cherry.

Trevor Thomas was in his usual front of house role as master of ceremonies, usher, warm-up man, inter-scene comic, and health and safety representative. This year he was also in charge of the spindle. What a multi-tasking talent!

Trevor pointed out some foreign envoys in the audience from neighbouring states such as Ganton and Nafferton. But he had an unhappy task to perform first; he had to apologise for a change of cast occasioned by the late withdrawal of Nancy Dell'Olio from her role as the Princess. Apparently she was suffering from stage fright and was far too shy to appear. Who was to take her part? We weren't told - why an emergency programme wasn't given out, I don't know.

Scene 1
The curtains parted and we found ourselves in the "magnificent interior" (source: director's programme notes) of the Royal Palace with the King and Queen reflecting on their year in the village. Pete Frewer, who'd had plastic surgery on his nose since last year's panto, and Sue Thomas, who hadn't, took us graciously and wittily through the events that had touched most of us during the year especially the momentous re-appearance of the swans on the mere. They made an excellent comic couple - Sue and Pete, not the swans. The Douthwaites, Robin and Gina, stood guard over the couple with their spears and they added to the general atmosphere of fun by pulling appropriate and inappropriate faces as events unfurled.
But the royal couple were sad as there was still no prospect of an heir. They'd even stooped to searching the neighbouring villages such as Walkington (boo!) and Sledmere (hurrah!).
At this moment, the invaluable and delectable fairy, Emma Pittaway, came on to cast a magic IVF spell over the couple.


Scene 2
By the second scene, still no Rodger. Where can he be? Has he been a naughty boy and been consigned to the naughty step? Is he perhaps being punished for applying to build a wind farm or a 50,000 herd dairy unit? What are we to think? There's no sign of Graeme either.

A full year has passed and the king and queen feature again now cooing over their new baby tucked away in her crib. She has just been christened and they are so happy. A series of fairies then come in and bestow their gifts on Princess Pippa. Fairy Poppy who had cast the spell that produced the princess bestowed the gift of angelic beauty on the new baby (mmm...). Paul Hayward was the next fairy and bestowed the gift of goodness. Jack Wray - the pregnant fairy "Pumpkin" - bestowed the gift of genius. [What? He wasn't pregnant? Oops! How embarrassing!] Richard Thomlinson as Fairy "Paprika" bestowed the gift of gracefulness with great balletic poise - but he must watch the way his toes point. Maybe that's why he fell over when exiting stage left. Mark Hoddinot as Fairy "Cinnamon" bestowed the gift of sweetness of voice and later sang for us. Gerry Brooks bestowed the gift of athleticism as Fairy "Nutcase". I think I must have missed the cartwheel when I kicked my glass of wine over.

Marianna Hankin dressed magnificently as Fairy Thistledown was just about to bestow her gift when she was rudely interrupted by her father Paul cast very suitably as Fairy Plonker (wine expert of the Fairy Telegraph) boasting a nose redder than Rudolf's. I'm not sure if this was caused by the absence or presence of make-up. Fairy Plonker was most upset at being left off the guest list for the christening; I suppose they were worried about running out of wine. So Plonker cast a curse that meant Pippa would have her finger pricked on a spindle and would waste away. Thistledown hadn't had a chance to bestow her gift and so was able to intervene; while she couldn't reverse the curse she could at least limit the damage by declaring that Pippa would not die but would fall asleep for a period of time which I got very confused about. Would it be 100 years? No. Would it be 12 months? No. In the end it turned out to be about 40 minutes.

The curse was met with some alarm by the Palace courtiers but the King (or was it the Queen) had a brainwave. Ban all spindles!

[I apologise if I've got the names and/or the gifts wrong - one fairy is a bit like another.]

But where on earth are Rodger and Graeme? Neither is a fairy unless they've lost count. Careful reading of the programme suggested they might have a minor role this year as all the named roles were already taken. But now we had the moment of the pantomime!

As the scene ended and the curtains started to close, Rodger's head popped out of the crib to the astonishment of the audience which dissolved into near-hysterical laughter. Now we know that he is Princess Pippa. A brilliant piece of invention, very well executed. But...was this really a beauty, a vision of loveliness? More a beast, I would have thought. So much for fairy Poppy's gift! Perhaps with the dire economic circumstances, the director has merged the roles of beauty and the beast into one, thus saving on unnecessary costumes. Or am I confusing pantomimes yet again?

Scene 3
We are now in the royal nursery. Another year has passed and Pippa is a year old and doesn't yet speak in spite of her "genius". Mike Lund obviously wanted to save on Rodger's words in the script as he is rumoured to be paid by the word. This scene though was wonderfully comic played by Lynn Middleton as a Norland nanny and Charleyne Wright as another nanny (maybe the wet nurse??). Sat between them, Pippa was tortured by the passing of cakes between them right under her nose. They eventually relented and gave her some of her own baby food which she did not want. Eventually Pippa was persuaded to eat some of it plus a fly which triggered off a series of flatulence as noisy as the fireworks display on Guy Fawkes night in School Green. Rodger can rarely have been so funny without saying a word - his facial expressions were side-splitting on their own.

Scene 4
Yet more time has passed and we are now with a ten year old Pippa in the schoolroom at the palace. Miss Spendapenny played by Sue Brooks with great comic timing and fun is her governess and she is sharing her education with Montmorency Doncaster, a ten year old boy from the village. Montmorency was played by Graeme Pittaway (on stage at last) and what a rollocking, boisterous performance he gave us as the naughty nipper.

There wasn't much learning going on in this rather eccentric school but three children from the audience were able to join in an indoor game "pin the tail on the donkey" on the stage.

A number of strands ran through the show. In one, Mike Lund MD kept crossing the stage with a metal detector. Was he searching for coins that might have fallen from the pockets of our thespians and could therefore boost the pantomime's Altisidora contingency fund? Who knows?

Another strand was Pippa's catch-phrase "Hey Up Love - A Dry White Wine" which the audience were invited to shout out in unison every time Pippa came on stage. I'm not sure if Di Birdsall heard the order but there was certainly plenty of white wine flowing at the post-panto party at the Altisidora.

There was much audience participation as usual; some of it was improvised: Child in the audience - "You've got a wig on! Your hair's brown underneath." Rodger "Oh, and I thought it was grey." and some scripted, with the audience joining in a hearty rendition of the Mac Davis song "Oh lord, it's hard to be humble when you're perfect in every way."

Anyway, it was time for the plot to move on so Pippa's finger had to be pricked by the spindle that was being operated diligently by Anne Frewer who'd been spinning away while all this nonsense had been taking place.

Pippa falls asleep and is carried off by some of the fairies rather inelegantly, it must be said.

Interval
The scene ends, the curtains close and now is the time to welcome Father Christmas who has come to gather the wishes of the children for Christmas which he does while extracting promises of good behaviour.

Trevor removes the spindle from the stage. Carefully now! We don't want you pricking your finger and falling asleep too.
Meanwhile half the audience clamber over each other in their efforts to reach the bar first. The other half settle for delicious mince pies and ice creams given out by members of the cast.

Scene 5
The scene begins with Fairy Cinnamon leading the singing of a song in the style of Gilbert and Sullivan. The usual post-interval wooziness was beginning to take effect so I'm not sure what this was all about except that it was great fun. The fairies danced about in an exquisite ballet or was it a barn dance? The fairies were now discussing the "sleep problem" in the palace since it transpires that all the courtiers had fallen asleep not just poor Pippa. This meant the palace was falling into disrepair and was surrounded by an impenetrable hedge.

Scene 6
The palace hedge connection took us seamlessly into the next scene featuring Alison Taylor and Nickie Hoddinott as a pair of gardeners from Gardener's World. One from "oop north" and one from "dahn sahth". Into this very amusing scene bounded the larger than life celebrity gardener, Monty Don. In order to be a true celebrity his name had been shortened from his real name Montmorency Doncaster, who was surprise, surprise, the lad from the village. Monty had been commissioned to turn the overgrown palace gardens into allotments. Now very much larger than life as the photo of him reveals and with a love of manure, Monty goes off to hack his way into the palace.

Meanwhile the fairies have been discussing the sleeping arrangements at the palace. Has Pippa slept long enough? Yes, shouts half the audience and the cast too, feeling the call of the Altisidora.

Monty has now reached the palace and Princess Pippa starts to wake up. I don't normally like to pick up on continuity errors but one of the jobs of a reviewer is to maintain a proper focus on issues of qwality. If the whole of the palace was asleep, who put a pair of pyjama bottoms on Princess Pippa that she wasn't wearing when she fell asleep? [The director, Mike Lund MD, has insisted on a right of reply to this alleged calumny. His answer is "the fairies, of course". I leave the reader to make their own mind up.]

Scene 7 or thereabouts
We are now back in the palace with Princess Pippa now a teenager. She is discussing the royal visit to market Weighton with her two Nannies. Monty Don bounds in with his inflated chest and takes Pippa off in to the garden for a spot of wooing and weeding.

Last scene
The last scene was considerably shortened from the original as the TV links to the abbey for the "wedding of the year" were lost due to a weak signal or lack of money. So we were left with a real-time radio commentary of the arrivals from Bishop Burton Radio's very own raving reporter, Trevor Thomas. Using a high-tech but eco-friendly sound system built from a recycled piece of cardboard and a redundant hair brush, Trevor introduced us to the members of the cast as they walked down the imaginary red carpet in the centre of the hall on their way to the post wedding ball. The audience clapped and cheered wildly as their favourites made their way onto the stage and there was a jolly rendition of "Oh! What a Photograph" with Simon Cherry, the live-wire sound and lights man, taking the photograph.

The cast and crew deserved every bit of applause as this was yet another marvellous and entertaining pantomime from Mike Lund MD and his troupe. Keep them coming, Mike; we very much look forward to this, the highlight of the cultural year in Bishop Burton.

Very many thanks to the cast and many helpers. Don't let me put you off from joining in next year.

At least one of the actors stayed in character long after the show had finished. What professionalism! Paul Hankin carried on the story-line about wine-tasting (one of his many skills and talents) into the post-show party at the Altisidora where he showcased his wine-tasting talents by joining groups at tables in two different parts of the inn at the same time!

I can't wait for next year's panto. Can you?

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