A touring pantomime of “Cinderella” around care homes and primary schools. No one could ever say this job was easy.
We played to audiences who were asleep; dementia patients, who heckled vehemently; special needs patients, who grabbed performers mid-song; crying women; cheeky men; bored carers; unhelpful carers; rude carers; delightful carers; enthusiastic carers; over-enthusiastic carers; the most noble people I’ve ever met.
We played to unimpressed pre-teens; precocious 7-year-olds; wannabe drama queens; excited children; shy children; loud children; quiet children; happy teachers; grumpy teachers; inspiring teachers.
We had some great shows and we had some difficult shows.
Long days, difficult audiences and far too many hours spent in the car with two people I had never met before. This tour had the potential to be absolute hell. But it wasn’t.
My two fellow panto-makers made this tour a joy from start to finish. Our beautiful, honey-voiced Cinderella, Kate Izzard, and my partner in ridiculous panto crime, George Francis, brought this show to life in a way that I couldn’t have expected. No one expects fireworks with this kind of tour. Mediocre is the order of the day. But we put our heart and soul into every show, no matter how strung out we felt. Come rain, shine, or seemingly perpetual darkness, we followed our satnav to destinations unknown, put up our little curtain and jumped in front of it with verve and vigour. We brought joy to hundreds of children and residents.
Bad jokes, smelly costumes, bowls of chips and a mountain of ketchup later (Kate), we were still going. And as we grew more comfortable with each other, oneupmanship lead to new levels of silliness. Familiarity bred creativity.
And, I think to everyone’s surprise, that familiarity did not once lead to friction. Three relative strangers, under each other’s feet for 3 weeks, and not once was a harsh, grumpy or frustrated word spoken. That’s a mammoth achievement in itself! I feel incredibly lucky to have been grouped in this trio of talented, intelligent and compassionate human beings. Sharing our Not-So-Secret Santa presents in the pub after our last show, was genuinely heart-warming… I think perhaps the festive season is getting to me, as it’s getting a tad pink and fluffy… They were cool dudes.
For me, this tour was a personal and professional trimph. I got paid to act, sing, and generally make a fool of myself on a daily basis. That’s the dream! This was my first theatre tour, and I am determined for it to be the first of many. Being a part of this panto also comes as a refreshing change from my recent string of acting jobs. Playing damaged young women, in films with serious and intense plots that left little room for play, comedy or joy.
But take on a Cinderella Pantomime, and all that is left in the dust. I was cast in the “character” roles: Ugly Sister, Fairy Godmother and Housemaid. I took great pleasure in creating big, fantastical characters that are satisfying in their opposition to my usual casting bracket of innocent, vulnerable young woman. An excitable, eccentric, well spoken Fairy Godmother. A kind, but bold Cockney Maid named Mia. A vain, obnoxious, flouncing Ugly Sister, with a thick West Country accent. Unfortunately, that last one is closer to my own personality than I should really admit to. Big, bold and unapologetically attention-seeking.
While touring, I spent a highly energertic hour, up to 3 times a day, frantically changing in and out of voluminous pink dresses, before dancing and singing my way across a stage that was sometimes no bigger than 3m/sq (it’s even smaller than it sounds), but still managing to get out of breath every time.
There is cunning pleasure in getting an 8-yr-old boy to reluctantly hold hands with an obstreperous, pink-haired ugly sister. A boy who’s face plainly said “Hold hands with a girl?!” Or coercing some exhausted carers into throwing themselves into a hectic Hokey Cokey. Or inappropriately flirting with an attractive male teacher, while dressed as an Ugly Sister.
I love being an actress.
No day is the same. No show is the same. Meeting new people. Making new friends. A wonderful, unexpected adventure. Fulfilling and exhausting.
To shamelessly sell myself for a moment, please check out my new Facebook Page to promote my acting. Like it, share it, be inspired to hire me from it: https://www.facebook.com/GeorgieMatthewsActress/timeline