The Treknow Panto Group (sometimes referred to nowadays as "Zimmerframe Productions"), began life with a motley crew of assorted performers and two reviews. No money, no store of props, scenery etc. So when someone, flushed with the success of the last night review declared "We'll do a panto next year!", many of us thought, "No, this is beyond our capabilities". Our stage was once described as being the size of an old farm fireplace, and our hall a large sitting room. Our backstage facilities are situated in the original snooker room beside the stage, changing rooms either side of the billiard table.
So, how do we perform a pantomime with all its glitz and glitter in these reduced circumstances? The answer was to forget the glitz and glitter, the large chorus lines and dance routines and concentrate on comedy. The story line of course was turned upside down, entrances made from the side door of the hall and through the kitchen hatch. Many a baddie has ended his days by being blown up out of the kitchen hatch. And so "New Age Panto" as it came to be called was born in 1985 with a production called "Cinderfella" and that immortal audience participation standard "Why does a red cow give white milk when she only eats green grass?". Our music director at the time being also a church organist, this immortal ballad was first practiced on the church organ. I think God probably had a good laugh.
1986 saw "The Frog Prince", and 1987 "Draculaddin", with it's references to the crippit (crypt), since when a script in Treknow has always been referred to as a scrippit. 1988 bought "Phantom of the Panto", when we had two of Andrew Lloyd Webber's staff in the audience. The subsequent letter threatening to sue for purloining the title was, I am pleased to say a joke, the giveaway being the forged (I think) signature, Edward Windsor, and the offer of a knighthood for our musical director. Sadly this was not forthcoming.
With 1989 and "Robin of Treknow" we had, for the first time, original music, and 1990 saw the beginning of the CALOR GAS panto awards. Our performance that year was "The Scarlet Pimple", and when the judges arrived their hearts must have sank. What could they expect from such a small community. They were amazed, and that year we walked away from the awards ceremony with second best production, best script, and several others, including comedy and timing, an award which we were to make our own, winning it on many occasions. Throughout the life on the Panto Awards; 1991, "A Midsummer Night's Jack", 1992, "Peter Pan", 1993, "Rats", 1994, "Sinbad", 1995, "The Beast of Bodmin Moor", 1996, "The Quest for the Holey Snail", 1997, "Alice in Pantoland", 1998, "Gone with the Wave" and 1999 "No Daffodil Pickers", we continued to enjoy a wonderful evening at the Cornwall Coliseum. Some years we won many prizes and some years not so many, but we always enjoyed the evening and I think the competition improved our standards. Sadly, because the number of contestants had increased to nearly sixty by 1999, the competition had become too big and had to be discontinued. We shall, however, have fond memories of the competition and thank the judges and Calor Gas for some memorable experiences.
Our group continued after the competition ceased with "Jack and the Three Musketeers" in 2000, and "The Big Sleep" in 2001 (beginning with the American army blowing up the audience in the Western Desert. This made a sleeping Cleopatra emerge from her tomb). In 2002 it was "Mother Gooseberry", (coupled with Jason and the Golden Fleece), and in 2003 the immortal "Mad Dogs and Cornishmen", a cocktail of The Hound of Bowithick Hill, Sherlock Holmes and Richard Trevithick's engine. This year we are repeating "The Scarlet Pimple". There are now only four left in the cast who were in the original production, and the others wanted to play it. The cast has been reduced from nineteen players to fourteen and the music, costumes and sets are all new. Oh well! You can't keep these things forever. Anybody got a spare guillotine?
I have deliberately not mentioned any names, there are too many to mention without fear of leaving someone out. Anyway, this is a team. We have our performers, writers, directors, musical directors, stage managers, costume and set designers, but we could not have managed without our world famous prompt, curtain pullers, sound and light organisers, raffle sellers and tea ladies, some of this crew sadly no longer with us.
"Vive la Pantomime!"
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