• Nick Zacharias

This year’s pantomime is a real treasure


PHOTO BY MICHAEL GREEN

Treasure Island takes on a whole new twist in an upcoming presentation at the Hudson Village Theatre, where the crowd is encouraged to boo, hiss, cheer and “arrrrr” to their hearts’ delight. This marks the 19th year for the cherished Hudson tradition of the Christmas Pantomime where local characters young and old get to sing, dance and cavort on stage and the audience is part of the fun. Pictured above are Paul Richardson (Billy Bones), Frey Sheridan (Patty Lugg), Willow Farkas (Ben Gunn) and Beatrice Johnson (Kittie the Maid) - just four of a 60-strong cast that is ready to bring the theatre to life starting December 13.

In a tradition going back nearly two decades, Christmas means it’s once again Panto time at The Hudson Village Theatre. The seasonal pantomime has long been a fixture of the British stage and in fact dates back to 16th century Italian street theatre, but some would argue that nowhere does it come alive quite so magically as in the converted train station on Wharf Road in Hudson.

This year’s pantomime is scriptwriter Ben Crocker’s hilarious take on Treasure Island, directed by Steve Walters. They won’t be sticking too closely to the Robert Louis Stevenson novel, but it looks to be a swashbuckling sensation. “This year’s show is extremely funny,” Walters told The Journal. “There’s always an element of cross-dressing in pantomime, so instead of Long John Silver, we’re having Long Jane Silver.”

But if that were the end of the gender-bending it would be too straightforward for this motley crew.

“All of our pirates in fact are women, and there’s a whole element involving the Women’s Institute, except all the women are actually men. Then the male women of the institute wind up impersonating pirates, and the dastardly pirates impersonate the Women’s Institute…” and on it goes.

With no less than 60 performers filling out two full casts to rotate through the rigorous performance schedule, from fresh-eyed kids to seasoned veterans, countless hours have been put towards bringing everything together. It is a lot of work. In a letter to the cast at the beginning of rehearsals at the start of September, Crocker reminded them of what makes it all worthwhile, and it has little to do with individual fame or fortune.

“Panto is incredibly inclusive. Both the cast and the audience comprise people of all ages - from the youngest to the oldest amongst us. People with talent – and some with not so much talent whatsoever! And so often, I hear how the pantomime really pulls the village together. Everyone is invested... Panto is a powerful force for social cohesion! And at a time when so many things are becoming a little polarized, it’s great to have something that brings us all together.”

The cast and the audience are sometimes quite literally brought together, which can be an eye-opener for first-timers.

Says Walters, “In Panto we love it when the audience gets in on it. It really feeds the performers and gets everyone’s energy up – so feel free to boo the pirates, cheer on the good guys, whatever moves you.” Audience participation is part of the tradition, and Treasure Island is such a high-energy romp that Walters predicts, “The audience could be dancing in the aisles for this one.”

Director Steve Walters

With musical interpretations from Pink Floyd to Elvis Costello and many more, Treasure Island is a spectacle the whole family will love.

So warm up your “Aye, matey” and practice your fiercest scowl, and book your tickets while they last: $23 each from December 13 through January 5 at www.villagetheatre.ca.

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