When I first saw the publicity I thought someone couldn’t spell Aladdin but then the penny dropped – it’s a pantomime about Jesus. Churches Together in Leeds 11 put it on last Friday and Saturday nights to packed houses at Beeston Hill United Free Church.
Nearly all the pantomime favourites were there –
The man as the dame – David Hebden as Widow Twanky who runs the Inn at Bethlehem and finds room in the stable for Mary (Laura Hardy) and Jo(seph) (John Leckenby) and a wonderful donkey called Rover (Tobi Shonubi);
The villain – Ian Pickup as Herod;
The comic turns – The three Wise Men (Mark Hodgkinson, Frank Naylor and Chris Langdale) complete with changing hats;
The yokels – Shepherds (Owen McCarthy, Sue Nicholson, Rachel Shonudi and Julie Wright) complete with sheep;
The fairy – an authoritative Elizabeth Shonubi as the Angel.
On the occasion when the words didn’t quite come to one or two of the actors’ lips Eve Tidswell was an efficient and subtle prompter.
A choir sang a number of songs including carols and there was plenty of room for lots of audience participation (‘Behind you’, ‘Hello Jo’, hissing Herod) including some of the children in the audience making sweets. It was the first time I have seen bags of candyfloss thrown at the audience but then I have had a sheltered life.
There were the usual puns and plays on words – my favourite was when Widow Swanky asked her daughter Ruth (Catherine Riding) to ‘Answer that door’ and she replies ‘But it hasn’t said anything!’ I didn’t know that the Wise Men came from Yorkshire. The Angel announced that they came came ‘from the East Riding…’ but then continued ‘… riding camels.’
The two Barbaras (Hardy and Hebden – Director and Director’s Assistant) ensured the pantomime moved at a good pace and kept the audience’s attention throughout and successfully married the pantomime tradition with the serious story of Jesus’ birth.
It was great to see people from the churches in Leeds 11 working together and everyone -cast, choir, those behind the scenes and the audience had a really enjoyable evening.
Thanks to Aire Valley Homes, Leeds Federated Housing Association and the Community First Panels of Beeston & Holbeck and City & Hunslet for their
This article was written by Stephen Williamson using our Community Reporters website at www.communityreporters.sllife.leeds11.com