hall focusof community

Simon Bristow

THERE are some who say that village life is dying.

But that is not a view shared by the people of Shiptonthorpe, who are about to stage its first pantomime in 50 years.

Perhaps appropriately for such an event, the piece they have chosen to blow away the cobwebs is Peter Pan, the timeless tale of the boy who never grew old.

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It will be the culmination of weeks of increasingly frantic rehearsals – most of the cast have never acted before – and a real community effort.

The majority of the 25-strong cast are from Shiptonthorpe, with support in “a couple” of roles from nearby Londesborough and Goodmanham.

Equally vital contributions are being made by more modest villagers to cover the off-stage responsibilities of set and costume design, lighting, front-of-house and sponsorship.

Such is the interest in the village, which lies halfway between Hull and York, that the shows at 7pm on Friday and the 2.30pm matinee on Saturday have already sold out and an extra performance has been scheduled for 11am on Saturday.

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The idea came from Alan Heaven, head of drama at Pocklington School, and his partner Diane Heywood, when they moved into Shiptonthorpe 18 months ago.

“We were struck by the sense of community spirit and we felt that the villagers would have great fun with a panto,” said Mr Heaven, who will be directing the show.

Ms Heywood, who has written the script and overseen rehearsals, said the production had unearthed hidden talents and created new bonds in the village.

“What’s really nice is it’s brought together people who don’t normally know each other,” she said.

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“People who have lived in the village for a long time might have just been on nodding terms with others and this is the first time they have worked together; it’s brilliant isn’t it?”

She added: “Some of the teenagers Alan knows from school, so we knew what they could do, and there have been some nice surprises.”

Any concerns about technical proficiency will be more than compensated for by enthusiasm.

Captain Hook is played by Ed Brindley, 62, a former landlord of the village pub, The Ship Inn.

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“I think Alan thought I had the biggest mouth in the village,” he said.

Barry Havercroft, 59, who spends half an hour in make-up each time he assumes the mantle of Dame Lisa, said there might be occasional departures from the script.

“There’s a lot of add-libbing going on but you can put things in with it being panto,” he said.

“The younger ones seem to pick it up quite quickly.”

At least one couple will be able to compare the production with earlier performances – Bernard and Muriel Phillips, who have spent all 66 years of their married life in Shiptonthorpe.

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“It will be nice to have a show on in the hall again,” said Mrs Phillips, 86. “The last one was History Through The Ages and it must be over 50 years ago. The hall looked a bit different then, as it was still the village school.”

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