> Only A Footstep Away: The 2006 Panto by Lucy and Jamie
The Date: Saturday 7th January 2006
The Time: 7.00pm
The Venue: White Rock Theatre, Hastings
A small group of PerfectBlenders journeyed to the South Coast resort of Hastings on the 7th January 2006, to see Ian Smith in panto. Arriving by rail - just how many stops are there between London and Hastings?! - and road, Billy, Claire, Jamie, Lucy and Steve had been looking forward to this trip for quite some time.
We'd made reservations in the hotel right next to the theatre, so once Billy and Lucy (who'd arrived first) checked in, they went to the theatre to try and get a call out on stage, and more importantly, to find out how we could meet Ian. We were informed by the box office manager that we needed to come back around 6pm (the show started at 7) and speak to the Front of House manager who would then ask Ian to meet us.
So after spending the afternoon exploring the town, and having a meal with Claire and Steve, who had since arrived, we went back to the theatre for 6. The Front of House manager looked at us strangely when we told him who we were, and why we would like to meet Ian, but he agreed to ask him. Just then, Ian walked down the stairs to go into the theatre, so we were able to spend some time chatting, getting pictures and autographs, before he had to get ready for the performance...
When the curtain went up we were made to wait a good 15 minutes before we were treated to seeing Ian Smith in person. The less prepared members of the party – not knowing who Ian was playing – found themselves trying to spot Harold Bishop beneath the makeup of the evil King and even the pantomime dame Widow Twankee! Finally, the Emperor of China’s entrance was announced and, with a gaudy rendition of the Neighbours theme, everyone’s favourite Jelly Belly was brought on in a rickshaw!
The Panto itself was no disappointment; with just the right mix of childish silliness, corpsing and in-jokes, there was enough to keep the children and the bigger kids in the audience happy. The plot strayed slightly from various incarnations of Aladdin we had all seen in the past, but there were firm favourites in the Genie (two in fact! One played by Spencer of BB3 fame) and a rendition of A Whole New World. Neighbours fans were well catered for too, with cracks about tuba playing, Lassiter’s and Ramsay Street, but by far the highlight for the PerfectBlenders came just before the end of Act 1, when Ian did Harold’s trademark “Wobblechops” face! The crowd were in stitches, and not just those of us who were there purely for Harold!
After the show, those of us who were too late to meet Ian before the show got our chance, and he was gracious and kind in dealing with what were essentially some very odd fans! After that it was time for a drink in the hotel bar next door, while dissecting our favourite bits of the show.
And so, after breakfast together the next morning, we all went our separate ways. But no doubt January 2007 will see another Perfect Blend panto trip.
For more information, visit the White Rock Theatre website, here.