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Video: Making us laugh is a serious business

PUBLISHED: 15:37 09 January 2009 | UPDATED: 12:57 09 March 2010

The group in the middle of a rehearsal

The group in the middle of a rehearsal

CHRISTMAS might be over but the pantomime season is still in full swing.

This year's panto is Jack and the Beanstalk

CHRISTMAS might be over but the pantomime season is still in full swing.

And Ipswich-based theatre group the Springfield Follies are busy rehearsing for Jack And The Beanstalk.

JAMES MARSTON finds out more.

Sue Cranwell talks to the animals

SOMETIMES things get a little tense in amateur theatre.

With just weeks to go and a show to put on there are occasionally times when the cast is under pressure to concentrate and work hard to get it right.

Rehearsals can be a serious business.

And by 7.45pm at St Mary Magdalen Church Hall, in Highfield Approach, on Monday night this week members of Springfield Follies were being put through their paces by director Carolyn Pettman.

Becca Kirby gets into character

To the casual observer pantomime might appear to be an unscripted giggle but getting it right and doing it well doesn't happen by chance - it takes hard work, practice and dedication.

This isn't the first time Springfield Follies have performed the classic tale of Jack And The Beanstalk, in fact it's the fifth.

The group's president Jacky Meehan was the back end of the cow way back in 1962. In 1969 she played the principal boy Jack, she did it again in 1979 and in 1991 she was in the chorus.

Jacky said: “This year I'm the choreographer and I'm in the chorus and understudying Jack. Jack and the Beanstalk begins when Jack and his mother Heidi are going to be thrown out of their house. Jack has to sell the cow but he sells it for magic beans from the wicked magician.

“The beans are thrown away but the beanstalk grows and Jack climbs it up to a castle in the clouds where there's a giant.

“Jack falls in love with the giant's daughter. He brings down a magic hen which lays golden eggs and he brings down a golden harp, he helps rescue the daughter and the hen solves their money worries. In the end the giant has the spell removed from him and he comes down the beanstalk and chops it down. They live happily ever after.”

This production includes several pop songs and songs from the musicals including shows like Hello Dolly, Oliver!, Les Miserables and Oklahoma.

Jacky said: “The audience can expect a strong story, lots of laughs, excellent music and dance and costumes, and loads of enthusiasm on stage as well as the audience participation you expect from a panto.”

Becca Kirby, 13, of Carlford Close, Martlesham, is playing the role of Anne-Marie.

Becca said: “She's the daughter of the giant and she lives in the clouds. She's a typical leading leady and she's the love interest for Jack. I've been with the Follies for three years and I really like it. Everyone is very friendly.”

David Self , 70, of Trinity close, Kesgrave, is one of the older members of the cast.

He said: “I'm playing the village idiot, called Dumber. I was in the group 22 years ago and I've recently come back.”

For Sue Cranwell, set designer, played the back end of the cow back in 1979.

The 48-year-old said: “I've been with the group for 35 years and done lots of different things on stage. I have done all I want to do as a performer, now I like to be backstage.

“The set is quite traditional, it's a big house and a castle and there's a beanstalk. It's almost ready. I enjoy the buzz from putting on a show. Even backstage you get that adrenalin rush.”

- Jack And The Beanstalk will be performed at Kesgrave Community Centre, in Twelve Acre Approach, Kesgrave on Saturday January 31 at 2.30pm and 7.30pm, Friday February 6 at 7.30pm and Saturday February 7 at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Tickets are £7 and £4 for children, family tickets for two adults and two children are £17. To book call the box office on 01473 819051.

Springfield Follies - In Profile:-

- The Springfield Follies were formed in 1948 to raise funds for Springfield Junior School.

- The group was set up by Bert Taylor, Bob Sharman and other members of the school's parents and teachers association along with theatre enthusiast and headmaster Leslie Stow.

- The Follies performed annual pantomimes and an annual variety show at schools across Ipswich for many years.

- Some current members have been in the group for nearly 50 years.

- The group now performs at Kesgrave Community Centre.

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