With a teacher playing the dame and the uusual host of music and comedy and more, Morpeth’s latest annual panto promises to be simply the beast.
The festive show, Beauty and the Beast, opens tonight at King Edward VI High school.
It’s Morpeth Pantomime Society’s 37th production, and the amateur dramatics group has been working hard to ensure it ranks among its most successful to date.
The panto group’s version of Beauty and the Beast is based partly on the classic telling of the story, first published in 1756 by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, and the earlier fairy tale it was based on, Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve’s 1740 original.
The plot varies considerably from the famous Walt Disney film of 1991.
The villain is an evil sorceress called Nasteesia. Referred to as ‘Nasty’ throughout the show, she is played by Gill Tait, a long-serving member of the society.
Nasty has designs on young Prince Henri with a view to taking over his kingdom.
He, however, ignores her advances as he will only marry for love.
Nasty uses her evil powers to transform Henri into a beast, played by Peter Archer, and he is imprisoned in his own castle.
The curse will only be broken if someone truly loves him and tells him so, which, of course, brings about the traditional triumph of good over evil.
No show would be complete without a bit of comedy, and funny moments will not be in short supply here.
The necessary mirth is provided by Beauty’s father, played by Alan Dodd, the old governess of the prince, Lady Gertrude, played by Andy Cottiss, a teacher at Morpeth’s Newminster Middle School, and the Town Cryer, played by Stewart Dives.
All are new to Morpeth Pantomime Society this year.
As the production is being performed by a well and truly family-based society, there are also several youngsters in lead roles.
Chairman Bruce Ennion said that was an important part of the society’s reason for being.
“We’ve been going for 37 years now but always encourage youngsters as much we possibly can, and we have quite a large junior membership,” he said. “Hopefully, this will encourage them to take more of an active interest in the arts as they grow up.
“I’ve been a member of the society since the day it started. We wanted the concept of having a pantomime for Morpeth and the surrounding area and to do it at an economical price.
“Money is obviously difficult for organisers, so we do a degree of fund-raising during the year. We’re just about breaking even, but we’re here to entertain people in Morpeth and the surrounding area.”
Money raised from the sale of programmes and collections during performances will be given to the Great North Air Ambulance in memory of two long-serving society members who died last year – Gladys Carlin and Bob Yeoman. Bob had been involved in every show since the society’s conception 37 years ago, and the charity was chosen by his wife Eileen, a life member of the group.
The society will perform Beauty and the Beast at the Cottingwood Lane school from today until Saturday. Performances take place at 7pm each day with the addition of a 2pm matinee on Saturday.
Tickets are £5, and they can be bought from the Morpeth Chantry or the town’s tourist information centre or by visiting www. morpethpantomimesociety.com or calling 07715 858942.