Easton panto still going strong after 60 years of entertaining

Hampshire Chronicle: Easton's 1953 production of Dick Whittington Easton's 1953 production of Dick Whittington

IF anything else had been knocking on for over sixty years you’d expect it to be a bit dusty round the edges.

But that rule doesn’t seem to apply to a Hampshire panto that’s been going since long before the fifties.

Because the people of Easton have kept their annual tradition alive making it bigger and better every year.

This year’s rendition of Peter Pan has seen nearly 90 people come together as actors, writers and make-up artists to put on what promises to be the best show yet.

Anna McGowan, 64, who has directed for the last ten years, said it’s a story they’d always wanted to do.

“We have always felt like we wanted to do it but kept putting off because it was a new one to write,” she said.

However, with some actors as young as five and as old as 80, catering to everyone’s needs can sometimes be problematic.

“This year we have very many children,” she said. “By the play’s very nature we have to have children as there are the lost boys. It’s more challenging and it’s taken more time because we have to fit around everyone’s schedules.”

The youngest star of the cast is five-year-old Henry Turner who stands alongside his older brother George, 7, in their first ever panto.

George, who attends Itchen Abbas primary school with his brother, said: “I’d never read Peter Pan before the panto so it’s totally new to me. I’d give it about a five out of five.”

For the infamous Captain James Hook however, played by 75-year-old Geoffrey Burnand, he can lay claim to over 35 years of experience and says this is the best part yet.

“I like to be the baddy!” he said. “It’s a wonderful story for a panto and it’s just a pity I have to lose!”

This year’s main character and scriptwriter is played by panto regular, 46-year-old Maddy Woosnam, who says the production both past and present has not been without its problems after she fell from the zip wire during the first trials of flight.

“Interestingly, I broke the line twice,” she said. “I came away with a few bruises last time but it’s all in good fun! Last time I played Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz and my dog was drafted in to play Toto. One night he shot off towards the audience because there weren’t enough biscuits to keep him on stage.”

For Sue Kennedy, 61, who plays the Darling’s faithful dog, Nana, it’s all about the community.

“We have so much talent! When we first started 28 years ago it was just a few spots on a plank of wood but everything has gotten so much better over the years. Everyone just comes together and it’s wonderful.”

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