Pantomime time in Wanaka town


It’s panto time in Wanaka. Oh no it isn’t; oh yes it is!

The traditional British Christmas pantomime is once again getting a local flavour from writer Liz Breslin and director Gilly Pugh of Wanaka Pantomimers.

Sno Whyte and the Seven is their third production, following on from Cindy and the Villanelles in 2017 and Jac and the Beansprouts last year.
Breslin said pantomime was a British institution, and with ‘‘quite a lot’’ of people from the UK in the region it was a ‘‘no­ brainer’’ to put on a local show.

Although the show kept traditional elements including audience interaction, and ‘‘cheesy songs’’ some less attractive aspects of old­fashioned pantos had been removed.

‘‘Gilly calls what I write ‘anti­mime’ instead of pantomime,’’ Breslin said.
Instead of sexism, racism and ‘‘patronising humour’’ that pantomimes in the past sometimes featured, Breslin had a ‘‘different slant’’.

‘‘We try to make sure that the humour is always good for the kids and good for the adults.’’
However, she did keep traditional elements that audiences loved.

‘‘We always try to do the ‘He’s behind you, look behind you’ thing, always the audience interaction, always a song rewritten with cheesy words.’’

‘‘We try and push the jokes as far as we can, but we never want to do that thing where the kids are going to be uncomfortable.’’
Director Pugh said although it was sometimes like ‘‘herding cats’’, she enjoyed the process and was very passionate about community theatre.

‘‘My thing is to try to help those people learn as much as they can about performance in the time I have with them’’.

It was a tradition that pantomimes were rehearsed in only three weeks.
The cast had a broad range of ages from as young as 7 years old to people in their mid to late 50s.

This year’s theme touched on local experiences and the house that the ‘‘Seven’’ lived in would be very familiar, Pugh said.
‘‘You know with rents being as difficult as they are and properties being as difficult to find there will certainly be rent themes that everyone will recognise.’’

Breslin said the model for the group was any profits would go to local youth organisations.
They had provided funds to Kahu Youth for Matariki fireworks celebrations, and to Upper Clutha Children’s Medical Trust, and the Hawea Youth Club.

Grace Bentley stars as Sno Whyte, with Becky Plunkett playing Joe Whyte and Joel Herbert playing the role of the truancy officer, ‘‘the baddie’’.
The show was entertainment for the whole family, Breslin said.
‘‘People can come in with their families, have a laugh and just relax.’’

★ Sno Whyte and the Seven is at the Lake Wanaka Centre from Wednesday December 4 to Friday December 6 with 7pm performances each night and a 4pm matinee on December 6.

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