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"Sleeping Beauty" from behind the Curtains

The first Sunday in September 2007, and there's a new face in the choir; well, a returning one at any rate after 8 years away. A notice catches my eye in the Pews News. "Will you take part in the pantomime this time". Now, that could be a lot of fun, and I would get to know more people. I went along to the read-through . . . and never looked back.

Within a couple of weeks I was re-christened as Sapphire the fairy. To begin with we were just reading the lines through to get an idea of who was who (in my case both in real life and on stage). Then the real work began, the script started to come to life and we all started to really get into character. By the end of October, props were appearing (we had to get used to them) and the script had been finalised, there were a few alterations to the original.

Blue Shield

November, and we were ready to put the songs in the right places and choreograph them. Sarah Palmer leapt into action and taught us all how to Happy Talk. I learnt very quickly that it did not matter that I could not dance, as long as I was willing to learn and give it a try. As a fairy I also had two other dances to learn in the shape of Wannabe, without taking Bobby (Topaz's) eye out with my wand. Also "a dream is a wish your heart makes" without stepping on the fingers, toes of any sleeping bodies. Luckily for me Sarah is very, very patient and if she did mind going back over the dance routines umpteen times it never showed.

Before we knew it, Christmas was upon us and we had one month before our opening night. Vanessa wanted one thing and one thing only: "lines and songs learned please, no scripts to be used from now on." I guess you could call it homework.

After Christmas, it was polishing up what we already had. Everyone was there from courtiers and "curtains" to Kings and Queens. If you weren't on stage at any given time you were in the choir vestry, the St Paul's centre or the back of the church learning lines, swordfights, dance routines, trying on your costume, the list is endless. And if you didn't have any of that to do for yourself there was certainly someone else who needed your help with theirs. Charlotte (matured Prince Austin) knew the prompts to all my lines by the end as we usually teamed up off stage together.

I have to say the teamwork within the panto gang, crew, cast, whatever you wish to call us was amazing: if anyone was having a bad rehearsal there was always someone there to say 'come on you can do it, you've done it a hundred times before'. Or 'why don't you try doing it like this'.

The last Sunday rehearsal came round very quickly, we were to use it as a full run through and dress rehearsal before the official one on Thursday. My face when I looked in the mirror and saw Sapphire the fairy looking back at me must have been a picture, Sarah was working her magic in a good way in the make-up room and had not let me peek whilst she was making me up. Now I had the dress, the shoes and the make up I really did have an almost fairylike quality. Inevitably there were one or two hiccups to be ironed out but nothing major, we were all buzzing by the end of it.

Thursday night, and the atmosphere back stage was nervous. It may only be a dress rehearsal for a handful of cubs and scouts but this would be the first time any of us would get any feedback from someone who did not have a child on stage, a script in their hands or heard it all several times before. Having an audience certainly sharpened us up and got rid of the nerves.

By the time Friday night came round the atmosphere in the cast had gone from nervous to absolutely electric, hardly anyone could sit still. The knights from Camelot dance went down to rapturous applause, the double act between Tricky Dicky (Nigel) and the Town Crier (Duncan) was hilarious and in one audience member's own words, it looked like we were all having a ball.

Saturday afternoon, and the average age of the audience had gone down significantly. One particular child was heard to cry out as Opal (Sarah Palmer) left the stage for the interval. "Stop the evil fairy, daddy". Well, at least we knew that Sarah was very believable as the evil fairy, as if we needed any more convincing. The same child came to say hello to her mum and sister later as they were in the cast, and they were very quick to convince said child that Sarah had turned into a good fairy now. We hope she's not scarred for life.

A very quick turn around, a shared tea and a touch-up of make-up and we were into the final performance. Congratulations have to go to Anna (the princess) who got over the giggles at Queen Ena (Penny) getting a face full of foam courtesy of the dame (Chris Bishop), pulled herself together, took a very deep breath and delivered her line - not easy, believe me.

Would I do it all again? Absolutely, definitely, yes; no questions what-so-ever. I now have lots of new friends of all ages and I think we were all agreed that it has been a lot of fun.

Maybe you would consider joining us next time? As a newcomer to the gang myself this year I can vouch for the fact that you will be made very welcome.


(Sapphire the Fairy)

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