Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Not Just For Kids: Pantomimes Are For Everyone!

So many people - too many people - dismiss pantomime as being solely for children or as being somehow lesser as an art form than, say, a Shakespearean tragedy or a high-brow comedy or even a musical. 

But here at The Wight Strollers, we firmly believe that pantomime is no less valuable than any other form of theatre - it's just different!

There is more to pantomime than meets the eye, and we're going to give you our top ten reasons why we believe that pantomime is for everyone - enjoy!

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1. It's Got It All!
Singing, acting, dancing, the humble pantomime has everything! An extravaganza of music, laughter and dance, it's a variety show with a storyline! What's not to like?

2. It's Timeless
The stories chosen for pantomimes are often age-old tales that people the world over hold dear, adults and children alike. From Aladdin to Cinderella, the difference between right and wrong is nowhere better illustrated than in these classic fairytales.

3. Panto Humour
There is barely a joke in Pantoland that cannot be perceived as an innuendo! Double entendre is the name of the game in any panto worth its salt, and script writers are only too aware that for every child in the audience there is at least one corresponding adult to keep entertained!

4. The Dame
A character that both adults and children can appreciate; whilst the children laugh at a dame's silly outfits, the adults will often find themselves on the receiving end of the dame's flirtatious humour!

5. Audience Participation
It's not a panto without audience participation, and there are no rules about how loud you can shout! Get involved and have a bit of fun: warn the princess of impending danger, argue with the villain...and heckle the dame. We dare you.

6. It's A Visual Feast
Costumes, scenery, pyrotechnics, lighting. Pantomimes, no matter what their size, can be a visual treat for audience members of any age. From the glitz and glamour of the wardrobe to the stunning backdrops, pantomimes give artists, seamstresses and technicians a chance to really let rip with their talents. It's a real labour of love for the behind-the-scenes team, and it shows in every sequin.

7. Family Bonding
Whether you visit with your children, your other half, your parents or your friends, a good old-fashioned pantomime is the perfect way to bring the family together. There's something for everyone and, as with any good show or film, each person will come away remembering and feeling something different...

8. Introducing Live Theatre
Do you love the arts? Are you a fan of theatre? Would you love for your children to grow up with the same appreciation of live entertainment? Well then, take an afternoon away from the realms of pause, rewind and skip, and step into a world of wonder where it's all about live-action and anything can happen! Who knows - it may even inspire a budding performer to take those first crucial steps onto a stage...

9. A Touch Of Magic
As we grow older, we can often lose sight of the magic that filled the world when we were children, but in Pantoland reality is suspended and the impossible becomes possible. We have magic in abundance, and we love nothing better than to share it with our audiences!

10. Happily Ever After
In a world growing weary of bad news, despair and disaster, there is something to be said for escaping for a few hours into a world where dreams come true and a happy ending is a given.

After all, everyone deserves the chance to believe in 'happily ever after'...at least for a little while.

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Convinced? We are, too! So check your diaries and buy your tickets for Aladdin at Medina Theatre on February 14th, 15th and 21st. You don't want to miss it!


Saturday, 10 January 2015

'Aladdin' 2015: Tickets on sale!

Tickets are now on sale for our 2015 pantomime: Aladdin. 


We have a fabulous cast of local talent, a stunning dance troupe, spectacular scenery, a live band, laughs by the bucket-load and plenty of magic for all the family in our biggest and brightest show yet.

To whet your appetite, we're going to play a game of 'Meet the Cast' over the coming weeks...so watch this space!

In the meantime, buy your tickets at Medina Theatre Box Office, Isle of Wight, either in person or by visiting www.medinatheatre.co.uk or phoning 01983 823884.

See you all in Old Peking!


Tuesday, 2 December 2014

The Magic Carpet Ride Begins...

It's been two months since we started rehearsals for Aladdin and things couldn't be going better, so it's about time for a long overdue blog post to catch you all up on the latest Strollers news!

Every year, we are fortunate enough to be inundated with applications to join the company; sadly, we can't say yes to everyone, but we try to bring in as many new members as we can - and this year is no exception!

Our chorus, already strong, has grown in number with some fabulous new talents, and we've welcomed a new face to this year's principal cast, too: Nick Weightman will be joining us as Aladdin, and we couldn't be more excited!

Our cast is strong, our script is fab, our dance troupe are shining brighter than ever and our backstage crew are already hard at work creating Old Peking, Egypt and a spectacular Cave of Wonders.

And as for the music?

Well, I can tell you that this year's music choices are going to blow your mind! From classic showstoppers to contemporary tunes, there's something for everyone and the singing is sounding better than ever before.

We'll be meeting some of the cast and crew over the coming months, so get ready for some sneak peeks, handy hints and maybe even a competition or two as we hurtle towards show week. Watch this space!

First on our list of cast interviewees will be this year's baddie, Tim Smith, who recently won the award for Best Performance in a Christmas Production at this year's IW Amateur Theatre Awards, for his part as Precious in Robinson Crusoe. From sensitive pirate to sinister magician, how is Tim handling his newfound villainy?

Check in with us in the new year to find out!

The Strollers have also been getting out and about around the Island in a more social capacity.

Our costume mistress, Karen Cassford, enjoyed a very special birthday a couple of weeks back, and celebrated with a Snow White and the Seven Dwarves themed tea party at The Essex in Godshill.

A wonderful venue and what a brilliant idea - we certainly enjoyed ourselves!

It's been a busy couple of months, that's for sure, but perhaps our most exciting moment so far was the recent engagement of one of our cast members.

A huge congratulations to Nicola Steedman and James Chastney on their engagement - we couldn't be more thrilled!

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On a more sombre note, it is with great sadness that we have to inform Strollers old and new, and our many supporters, that Josie Wellspring, passed away last week.

"Josie was a founding member of The Wight Strollers, a talented director and all-round entertainer. She was an amazing person with a heart of gold, and was well-known across the Island for her charity work," said Sarah Scotcher, Aladdin director.

"I learnt a lot from Jo and consider myself lucky to have shared a stage with her on many occasions. Josie will be remembered fondly by us all, but her time on life's stage has now ended. Our thoughts are with her family and friends - may she rest in peace."

Josie's is a name, a face and a presence that will never be forgotten in The Wight Strollers, and we hope she would be proud of where we are today.

I've said it before, and I will say it again: we are so very lucky to have such a wonderful history, with so many inspirational people who have all shaped the company over the years and from whom our new members, through the decades, have been privileged enough to learn so much.

Josie, from all at The Wight Strollers: Thank-you.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Crusoe's curiosities lead to big charity donations!

With panto season well and truly over, April brought with it our charity donations. This year, due to rising costs and the bite of bad weather, we gave away a little less than usual, but our total donated still reached £5,000, split between six Isle of Wight charities at our AGM on Thursday, 24th April, 2014.

This takes our grand total over the years to £122,000 - and every penny has stayed on the Isle of Wight to help Island people. This is when all the hard work becomes ten times as worthwhile, and hearing how our donations make a difference is our favourite post-panto blues remedy...

The first was Across the Board Surf School, and Katie Bond of the National Autistic Society Isle of Wight was on hand to collect a cheque for £1,000. The school runs surfing sessions, largely over the summer, for autistic children, giving them the opportunity to engage with an exciting, water-based sport with their families.

The second cheque was for £900 and it was presented to Mike Earley on behalf of the 7th Newport Scouts, to help them fund some new equipment. The Scouts support our pantomime every year, and we were thrilled to give something back.

Riding for the Disabled received a cheque for £800, which was collected by Anna Reed. A charity that provides horse-riding as a form of leisure and physical therapy, it's another hugely worthy cause we are proud to have supported.

A cheque for £800 also went to the Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association IW, collected by Adrian Axford and his son, Gary, who suffers from the condition.

"For families affected by Spina Bifida, the cost of travelling to the mainland for treatment can be huge," said Adrian. "This money will go towards travel expenses and lightweight wheelchairs. Thank-you so much to everyone at The Wight Strollers for this contribution - it's an amazing amount of money and we really will benefit from it."

Ability Dogs 4 Young People received a donation of £750, collected by Carol Court and some of her dedicated puppy parenting team...and some of the puppies, including little Magic, who was a hit with some of the Strollers' younger members.

Our donation could help to sponsor a puppy, which would then be trained to assist young people with physical and mental disabilities on the Isle of Wight.

Our final charity for 2014 was the Sandown and Shanklin Independent Lifeboat, and Mark Birch collected a cheque for £750 on their behalf.

"We can't thank The Wight Strollers enough for their donation," he said. "We are a 24/7 service run by volunteers, so it's donations like this that keep our service running."


Two new committee members were also elected, in the form of Leslie Kast and Alyson Keele-Toms - congratulations, and we look forward to welcoming you at our next meeting!

Shortly after our AGM, an article appeared in the Isle of Wight County Press on Friday, May 2nd, reporting on the donations - so thank-you to them, and if you still have your copy, check out the piece.

Our 2015 pantomime is currently being discussed and decided, and we will be making an announcement very soon, so watch this space!

Sadly, though, this could be The Wight Strollers final curtain call, as council cuts threaten not only the Isle of Wight Music Service but the fate of Medina Theatre: our pantomime home. If the use of the theatre is lost to the community, The Wight Strollers will be homeless.

So set aside the February half term dates now and support us next year on the 14th, 15th and 21st February 2015 at Medina Theatre.

And keep your fingers (and toes!) crossed for us!

Saturday, 26 April 2014

And so we leave the Island of Abbadonia...

Pantomime is over for another year - oh yes, it is! - and we've been taking a bit of a break to recharge our batteries.

It's been an exciting, enjoyable and, at times, emotional ride to the shores of Abbadonia and back, and now we're raring to go again with our carnival routines and our early preparations for next year's pantomime.

Robinson Crusoe was a resounding success, and we had five brilliant audiences, whose warmth, laughter and applause kept us buzzing from start to finish. We couldn't have asked for a better atmosphere for our party in panto-land!

Positive feedback flooded in from curtain up at the first performance, and here are just a few of the things people have said about our 2014 pantomime, Robinson Crusoe...

"Great show on Saturday evening. My Mum and myself had a real good laugh. The pirates made our evening. everything else was superb."
- Gareth Hayles

"Thank you Wight Strollers for a fab Panto this afternoon, thoroughly enjoyed it - loved the pirates syncro swimming scene and Precious was brilliant."
- Christine Feltham

"Wow, just wow - you were all absolutely amazing, I really could not stop laughing! Each & every one of you on stage & behind the scenes deserve a great big round of applause. After Sleeping Beauty last year, I thought it would be a tough act to follow, but you did it again."
- Claire Barry

"The family haven't laughed so much in ages...I would highly recommend it. A truly hilarious performance...we thoroughly enjoyed it."
- Wight Time

"Thank you The Wight Strollers for helping 6th Newport Cubs celebrate Crunchie's BIG BIRTHDAY,
 She has forgiven 'Captain Jake & his band of Pirates' but I think it will take few months to forgive her little Sister for lettng the cat out of the bag! Thank you for a fantastic show and see you all next year!"
- Caroline Seaward

"Your production of Robinson Crusoe was just wonderfully entertaining, fabulous to look at, incredibly joyful and an all round delight to watch. Thank you cast and crew of Wight Strollers - you made my afternoon."
- Lynne Johnson Harkins

"Thoroughly enjoyed this fabulous show. Amateur production with total professionalism! We'll done!"
- Geraldine Tulloch

"We loved every second of it, and at one point I actually had tears of laughter running down my face! We can't decide on our favourite characters as they were all superb! I will be recommending this to everyone I know, and the fact the money all goes to charity makes it even better. Well done to every single Stroller and thank you for a wonderful evening of entertainment. Completely and utterly brilliant in every way."
- Lou Hewison

"Thank you for letting us come to the final dress rehearsal last night; we all thoroughly enjoyed it. The last scene of Act 1 had me in tears of laughter! Thank you for supporting our surfing charity; you're all amazing!"
- Katie Bond

"That was awesome! Well done on costumes, script, acting, dance and sheer awesomeness! Haven't laughed so much in ages!"
- Julie Anne Harris

"A lot of talented people and the pirates were hilarious.Well done."
- Amelia Paine

"Great show - brilliant fun & the dancing, singing, scenery and costumes were fantastic!"
- Janet Hingert

We also received a couple of reviews, from the Island's youth website, yoppul, and from the Isle of Wight County Press.

Glowing praise all round - it makes you proud to be a Stroller! But not as proud as the amount we give to charity - watch this space for our donations and details of next year's pantomime...

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Today's the Day!

This is it! Our opening performance of Robinson Crusoe is just hours away and we're so excited that we simply have to give you a sneak peek of our costumes...

With over 120 costumes, more than 40 cast members, a live three-piece band and an array of colourful sets, this is one production that you won't want to miss.

So much work has gone into this show over the last five months, and with last night's final dress rehearsal came our first mini-audience - needless to say, we were fairly nervous!

They loved it. The feedback was unanimously positive, a real boost for our cast, and everyone went home happy.

As you can see, we're not going to give too much away, but we can give you a few cryptic spoilers. 

In the style of BBC's Sherlock, here are three teaser words to give you some clues:

1. Party
2. Crane
3. Disguise

Make of those what you will!

If you're coming to see our production, please do let us know what you think, either by leaving a comment on our blog or by giving us a visit on Facebook or Twitter.

Finally, to all members of The Wight Strollers: break a leg! This is where the hard work truly pays off, with the laughter, the cheering and the buzz of a full theatre.

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There are still tickets available for all performances of Robinson Crusoe and you can buy them on the door by visiting Medina Box Office up to one hour before the start of each show - we'll see you at the theatre!

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Mamma Mia! Here She Goes Again!

Our third interviewee is none other than Sarah Scotcher, the director and co-writer of this year's pantomime: Robinson Crusoe.

Sarah is also playing Chief Abbadon in the showa tribal leader whose hobbies include listening to ABBA songs, chasing men and eating chocolate...

This is the sixth pantomime you've directed in the last seven years for The Wight Strollers - what is it that you love about directing our motley crew?

The Strollers are a great bunch, I love directing them - their enthusiasm is second to none, which I know comes across on stage. I love the wide age range that spans across the company and the family feel. When people dedicate so much of their spare time to a production, it has to be fun. We have this in abundance.


What's the biggest challenge about putting together a production on this scale?

Pulling all different aspects of the show together at the theatre: scenery, costumes, music, dance and, of course, the script. We don't have the luxury of rehearsing at the theatre until a few days before the show and waiting to see if the vision you have carried in your mind as the director is transferred to the stage can be nerve-wracking! You have to be flexible and quick-thinking to make changes on the spot if needs be.


What advice would you give someone who was looking to direct a pantomime?

Play to people's strengths when casting and enlist the help of others who know their craft. You have to develop a thick skin, too, because the buck stops with you! I love directing and I don't think you ever stop learning - I always take something away with me from every show I go to see. The minute you think you know it all, you're in trouble. I have always said I will do what is best for the show and that is exactly what I do, offend or please!


Rumour has it that you've been a Wight Stroller for a long time - how did you start?

The Wight Strollers was formed from the Nesta Meech School of Dance when she retired in 1981. Nesta taught me to dance from an early age - she was a lovely lady, I owe a lot to her. I hope she would be proud of what the Strollers have continued to do.


A member from the start - that is a lot of pantomime! What is it, for you, that makes pantomime so timelessly charming?

Pantomime is family entertainment, and very often it's a child's first experience of live theatre. I love the interaction with the audience and I am at my happiest on stage and ad-libbing with the audience. The sound of laughter, happy faces and being part of that.....there's nothing like it, I am addicted!


And finally, why should people buy tickets for Robinson Crusoe?

Come and see our latest production and join in the fun, you won't be disappointed. Professional quality at amateur prices. Did I mention we raise money for Island charities? ...I'll stop talking now and draw breath!

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A great interview from an exceptionally talented lady - thanks, Sarah! You heard the director - buy your tickets for Robinson Crusoe by booking online or by phoning Medina Theatre Box Office on 01983 527020.