‘The panto has always been a gathering for Renmore’
ROBIN HOOD and The Babes in The Wood, Renmore’s 35th annual pantomime, which opens in the Town Hall Theatre this Sunday and runs until January 12, promises to be a spectacular adventure of laughter, music, and song for all of Galway to enjoy.
In Robin Hood and The Babes in The Wood, scripted by Panto Dame Peter Kennedy and directed by Brian and Sean Power, all is not well in Nottingham. The Wicked Sheriff is hatching evil plans to eliminate the Babes, who stand between him and the throne of England. He is also out to capture Nottingham’s hero Robin Hood, by holding beautiful Maid Marian as hostage. Along the way, as Robin seeks to thwart the Sheriff’s dastardly plans, he will meet Nurse Polly Pampers, Simple Simon, Friar Tuck, and Helen Hood along the way.
This glittering production also features comical courtiers, a wild witch, and many novel surprises as the story unfolds. Well known Galway performers, electrifying dance routines, and the charming Renmore Smurfs will bring sparkle to this seasonal feast of family entertainment.
And still found plenty of time to sing...
Taking on the role of Robin Hood is Declan Gardiner, making his sixth Renmore Panto appearance. He filled me in on what audiences can look forward to.
“It’s a very clever script,” he says. “You have Robin’s little sister, Helen Hood, who wants to be just like Robin. Then there are two funny nobles, Lord Waddy and Wupert, who work for the Sheriff. There are the Two Babes who are King Richard’s children and need to be kept safe from the Sheriff. They bring the story along all the way through. There’s Maid Marian of course. There is also a peculiar character called Nutty Nelly. The Sheriff is initially convinced she is crazy and that she eats children, but it turns out she isn’t so crazy at all and is actually on the Babes’ side and makes sure they are safe.”
Song and dance is always a highlight of the show and Declan outlines a few of the key numbers in this year’s production.
“We have a good mix of songs in the show,” he says. “‘Dancing Fool’ is a big, brassy, jazzy song that is our opening number. Then we have a bit of country for a new song called ‘Timber’ which has line-dancing in it. There is a lovely staging of Rihanna’s ‘What Now’ and there’s a big kind of X-Factor party routine with a Jessie J song near the end. And there is a lovely duet from the 1993 Robin Hood - Prince of Thieves movie, with the Bryan Adams song ‘Everything I Do (I Do it for You’), and that’s a romantic duet between Robin Hood and Maid Marian.”
He called the greatest archers to a tavern on the green
The Renmore Pantomime production of Robin Hood and The Babes in The Wood has also been accepted as one of the last official The Gathering events in Galway for 2013. As part of the Gathering, there will be a Gala performance of Robin Hood on Saturday January 4 at 7.30pm to which the cast and crew of 1989 are specially invited to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of The Wizard of Oz, the panto that was staged in Leisureland 25 years ago.
Tom Duggan and Brendan Hutchinson are organising this Gathering event. They played the roles of Tin Man and Mayor of the Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz and they expect most of the 1989 principals will attend and be introduced onstage.
Tom recalls that show and his own involvement with the Panto.
“It was an iconic panto, The Wizard of Oz, a wonderful dream story,” he says. “The Renmore Panto is a great community gathering and has been through all these years. My wife Margaret and I were the first principals in the very first Renmore Panto. I was the principal boy and she was the principal girl. Eventually we grew out of that and were too old to play principal boy and girl but continued to be involved for about 10 years in production.
“We also had a Gathering event last year. Cast members from many previous years were invited back to attend the show at the Town Hall and we had a get together in the Bon Secours. It was a great gathering as we had people coming from Ireland, England, Europe, and even Australia. So, we had Galway’s very first Gathering in January last year and this year we are doing the last one of the year as well.”
Tom reflects on the strong spirit of fellowship which infuses the Renmore panto.
“It has been such a wonderful community and a bonding,” he says. “We are all massive friends after all the years. And it is a tribute to Joe McCarthy and the people here in Renmore. One of the bonding things in the show is that we’ll have 40 or 50 children taking part as the Renmore Smurfs and that gets the families involved. We have some of our adult performers who started off in the panto as Smurfs when they were just four or five years old. It’s a continuous thing, ‘The Gathering’ may be a new word this year but the panto has always been a gathering for Renmore.”
In 1978 the seed was sown for the Renmore Pantomime. At that time, the School Assembly Hall was Renmore’s only social centre. Here in the tiny kitchen, Sean O’Malley suggested to his team-mates in the Renmore Badminton Club that they should consider having a parish pantomime. They agreed and Joe McCarthy, who had produced Tops of the Town shows for CIE, was asked to direct.
A marvellous community spirit swept the project along and Goody Two- Shoes was launched at the Jesuit School Hall, Sea Road, on January 6 1979. That first production made an immediate impact and the planned three-night run had to be extended to five.
The momentum gathered pace in the following years and The Jes Hall could no longer cater for the crowds so it moved to Leisureland in 1982 for Old King Cole. The huge Leisureland auditorium presented a new challenge but the Renmore ensemble rose to the occasion. Long queues outside the Salthill venue built up expectations and it was packed out for the run, with almost 2,000 people for some matinees.
In 1996, the panto relocated to the newly refurbished Town Hall theatre, revelling in the venue’s enhanced facilities. Over the past 35 years some 1,800 people have been involved in the staging of these pantomimes.
The Renmore Pantomime is now firmly established on the calendar of family entertainment for the first two weeks of every January. Times are 7.30pm (December 29,30 and January 1,3,4, and 7 - 11); 2.30pm (December 29 - 31 and January 1, 4, 11); and 12 noon and 4.30pm (Sunday January 5 and 12).
Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie