Society hits back after pantomime jibe

A SUFFOLK amateur dramatic society has today hit back at claims the traditional pantomime is past its use-by date.

A SUFFOLK amateur dramatic society has today hit back at claims the traditional pantomime is past its use-by date.

The Felixstowe-based Dennis Lowe Theatre Company has rejected claims by a national group that pantomimes should be overhauled with new plot ideas and fresh jokes.

The National Operatic and Dramatic Association (Noda) is the UK's representative body for amateur theatre groups and has risked sparking outrage among members by saying scripts lack originality and are threatening the future of the festive tradition.

Noda chief executive Mark Pemberton has launched an appeal for new ideas and has even suggested a pantomime based on reality television show Big Brother - and fresh jokes to breathe new life into the popular institution.

But Sylvia Lowe, whose late husband Dennis founded the long-running Dennis Lowe Theatre Company disagrees.

Mr Pemberton said the vast majority of amateur theatre groups want to perform traditional titles, such as Cinderella and Mother Goose.

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He said: “There is nothing wrong with this, of course.

“The titles are tried and tested, and some audiences are attracted to the traditional. But there are some groups and pantomime publishers who hunger for something different.

“So perhaps it is time for pantomime writers to think of new titles - why not 'Big Brother the Panto'? - and new gags.”

Mr Pemberton also criticised the quality of writing used in amateur productions.

He said: “It is frustrating to be sent scripts by aspiring writers that show little originality, shoe-horn in the same gags and read like production-line fodder.

“We need new titles and new jokes for a new century.”

Mrs Lowe, who is currently overseeing the group's production of Mother Goose at the Spa Pavilion Theatre, said: “I think he is being a bit harsh.

“While the audiences are enjoying what they go to see - and from the responses we've had this year they are - then why change things?

“We do modernise our shows a little but how can you modernise them completely and still keep the tradition? If you don't have all the old favourites like the boos and hisses and the goodies and baddies then it isn't pantomime.”

Mrs Lowe said some changes are needed to keep up with changing audiences, but insisted the essential elements must be kept in the festive shows.

Mrs Lowe also rejected Mr Pembeton's suggestion for a Big Brother pantomime.

“If he wants to write a pantomime like that then go ahead and write it, but it will depend on someone actually wanting to do the show.”

Should panto be changed? Oh yes it should? Or oh no it shouldn't? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Mother Goose will be running at the Spa Pavilion Theatre in Felixstowe until Sunday.

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