Panto time in Ramelton
By John McAteer
The Ramelton Pantomime production this year is
' Jack and the Beanstalk' and it opens at the Town Hall on Monday week, February 18th.
It is their 46th show in a chequered history on the town hall stage where they first produced a show back in 1956.
Robin Hood was produced by Frank Mooney and so began a legend that continues to live on as it attracts new names, new faces and new audiences.
The second panto in Ramelton was
Jack and the Beanstalk and it became a big favourite. The group last produced it in 1994. Now in a new millennium it is back by popular demand but some of the originals from fourteen years ago continue to shine in the front line.
Panto is as popular as ever and Jack and the Beanstalk is closely associated with the fairy tale of Jack the Giant Killer. The origin of Jack and the Beanstalk is unknown, although the author was almost certainly of German origin. The earliest printed edition, which has survived is the 1807 book: The history of Jack and the beanstalk.
Ramelton retains the traditional character of the old panto stories and Jean Winston who is the main producer says that it is part of their own history. The town has a rich vein of talent and musical ability and a great capacity to entertain. That is why the crowds continue to pack the place for twelve nights during the month of February and they are never disappointed.
In this year's tale Jack is a very socially disadvantaged child whose lack of cop on drives his poor oul widowed mother to the deepest depths of despair. She sends him over to the market at Gamble's Square to sell their last and only possession.... a cow. But along the way Jack meets a stranger (and Ramelton has a few) who offers to trade it in for five magic beans. Thrilled at the prospect of owning magic beans, Jack makes the deal without hesitation. Alas, his mother goes pure ballistic when he arrives back home. She throws the beans straight out of the window and sends Jack to bed without his usual dish of chicken nuggets and a glass of champagne. Overnight however, the seeds grew into a gigantic beanstalk. It reaches so far into the heavens as the mind can contemplate or to the Top of Moorefield. And Jack decides that he must climb to the top of the plant and that is where the fun begins. He saves the Giant's wife from eternal mortification and he takes away a few gold coins to share with his mum. But fortune does not smile on the brave this time and so Jack has to climb back up the beanstalk again and again with astonishing consequences given that we are now in the middle of a recession.
The rest of the story is what you will have to pay to see. The main characters include Kiera McDaid as Jack: James Friel plays Dame Trott and Damien Duffy is the evil Demon. Sally, the principal girl is Nicola Hamilton. Tommy Logan and Mickey McHugh play Harum and Scarum respectfully.
Maggie Cullen is The Fairy:
Catriona McCafferty plays Bertha
and Martin Duffy is Daffy.
And Daisy the cow is in the capable hands of Tom Egan and Mark Bolton. Dermott Mills is in a whole new role, Blunderbuss, no better man. The Fairy Queen of the Forest is played by Nadia Dunworth. There is a big chorus of nineteen and a cast of 190 children, but they are not all there at once.
From now until the opening bell on next Monday week at eight o'clock the Town Hall will be the busiest place in Donegal. It has been turned into a theatrical workshop where carpenters and painters and electricians weave their own brand of magic to ensure that all your dreams come true on your visit to the show.
The production team is Jean Winston: Tony Boyce and Patsy Boyce and choreography is by Elaine Ferry and Gerald McFadden. Around 190 children are in the show and they appear in four different groups on alternating nights. As always there is huge interest in this part of the programme and the rehearsals have been going on up at St. Mary's School since the new school term after the New Year. Mary Haggan, Jean, Gerard and Josie have been doing a great job ensuring that all will be word and note perfect for the opening night.
Perhaps the busiest woman in Donegal right now is Doreen Gill who is in charge of the costumes department. She has created dozens of new designs and they are truly a work of art.
Also there are the much-awaited creations from John Joe Harkin. He has been busy painting the backdrops and the sets and once again he excels in his creative ability and undoubted talent, as readers of this newspaper will know from his cartoon sketches each week. A new lighting system is going in and it should also add to the appeal of the show. The musical director is Ronan Doherty and once again his professional hand is quite evident in the scores he has arranged. Behind the scenes are dozens more: carpenters: stage design: effects: make-up and looking after the hall and catering in a nightly basis.