LITTLE RED Riding Hood, this year's Renmore Pantomime, opens at the Town Hall on Friday December 30, and promises to be a spectacular adventure of laughter, music, and song, scripted, as always by Panto Dame Peter Kennedy, and directed by AIMS award-winning twins Brian and Seán Power.
If you go down to the woods today... you're definitely in for a big surprise! Not only does Little Red Riding Hood (Kate O'Mahony ) have to look after her poor, old Granny Hood (Peter Kennedy ), she must also contend with the threat of the Wicked Witch Gwendolin (Katie Creaven ) who wishes to cause her harm.
With the help of her parents Robin Hood (Karl O'Doherty ) and Marian Hood (Ashling McGrath ), Little Red joins forces with childhood friend Woody (Declan J Gardiner ), the Three Little Pigs (Paul Hughes, Hannah McCreanor, and Michael Cooney ) and the famous Witch Hunters, Prince Hansel (Cathal Ryan ) and Princess Gretel (Jennifer Flaherty ) to overcome the evil witch's curses!
This will be the 38th annual pantomime from the Renmore troupe, and will feature well-known Galway performers, electrifying dance routines, and the charming Renmore Smurfs, all bringing sparkle to this seasonal feast of family entertainment - a perennial highlight of Galway’s Christmas calendar.
From panto to Jean Genet
Kate O’Mahony, who plays Little Red Riding Hood, is from Furbo, and is a second-year drama student at NUI Galway. This is her fourth performance with the Renmore Pantomime, having played Princess Pauline in last year’s production of Jack and the Beanstalk. Kate has performed with many societies around Galway including Twin Productions, Galway Musical Society, KATS, 9 Arch Claregalway Musical Society, the Galway Theatre Rooms, Corofin Musical Society and NUIG Dramsoc.
“My main back-ground is in musical theatre,” Kate tells me over an afternoon chat. “I was in GMS’s Legally Blonde this year and 9 Arch’s Whistle Down The Wind last year. My biggest company at the moment is NUIG Dramsoc, with them I have done Enda Walsh’s The New Electric Ballroom and I’m currently working on The Maids by Jean Genet which will be running from January 23 to 27 so that will be a very quick turn-around from the panto!”
To go from panto to Jean Genet is quite a leap; how would Kate compare preparing for a role in panto to one in straight theatre? “With panto there is certainly an expectation of what your character needs to be that you have to play to,” she replies. “If I was to play Little Red as an angsty, bratty teenager, I don’t think it would go down too well with the parents or kids watching the show! You can still be creative with the role and bring something new to it, but you can’t push boundaries with it. You do need to stick to what is expected of it, whereas in more serious theatre you are definitely more encouraged to bring more originality to a part.”
Kate describes her character of Little Red: “Peter Kennedy has pulled a nice stunt in making Robin Hood and Maid Marian (Ashling McGrath and Karl O'Doherty pictured above ), Little Red Riding Hood’s parents. In the story we also have the Three Little Pigs and Hansel and Gretel so it’s quite a mash-up of a lot of different fairy tales.
"Little Red is described as a sweet and naïve young girl and she is certainly both of those. She is a lovely character. While there is a princess, Gretel, in the show Little Red plays more to the stereotype of the sweet princess who gets saved and sings some nice songs and the little girls really seem to like that. I’m really enjoying playing her.”
Naturally there is a generous helping of romance in the story. “Red’s love interest is Prince Hansel who is a German witch-hunting prince,” Kate reveals. “He’s a brilliant character and Cathal Ryan is doing an excellent job with him and he’s really going to be loved by the audiences. He saves Little Red from the Wicked Witch. He’s a lot of fun and he has to overcome a lot of obstacles to save her, he deals with wolves, witches and all sorts. He doesn’t do any of that without the help of his sister Princess Gretel.”
Cue the music...
Music is a key ingredient in the flavoursome panto cake. I ask Kate which numbers she’ll be singing as Little Red. “They are still being finalised but at the moment I have two pop songs, a ballad, and an uptempo number, and then ‘Kiss the Girl’ from The Little Mermaid,” she reveals. “I sing ‘Fight Song’ by Rachel Platten and ‘Cake By The Ocean' by DNCE. They are great panto songs that fit well with the story and I’m enjoying them but I absolutely adore ‘Kiss The Girl’.”
Now in her fourth year with Renmore Panto, and second year onstage following two years as back-up singer in the orchestra pit, Kate revels in the company’s togetherness and esprit. “It’s definitely a family atmosphere. The Renmore Panto are a lovely group of people to be around even with the change of cast over the past few years it’s still a lovely environment to work in.”
The panto literally has a family atmosphere for Kate because her mom Linsey and her niece are also part of the show. “My mom got involved when I did,” she explains. “She was giving me lifts in and out to rehearsals so she ended up getting involved too and now she loves it as much as I do. She is involved in other companies as well. She’s a back-up singer in the orchestra pits with the panto.”
Kate concludes by declaring that Little Red Riding Hood looks like being a real Christmas cracker. “It’s a wonderful script this year," she says. "it’s my favourite of the four pantos I’ve been involved in. I think people will fall about laughing, Peter Kennedy has really out-done himself with it.”
Little Red Riding Hood runs at the Town Hall Theatre for 21 performances from the December 30 to January 15. There will be matinees (2.30pm ) on December 30 and 31, and January 1, 7, and 14; Matinees (12 noon and 4.30pm ) on January 2, 8, and 15; and nightly performances (7.30pm ) on December 30 and January 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 13, and 14.
There will be a Sensory Friendly performance of Little Red Riding Hood on Sunday January 8 at 12 noon to cater to the needs of children with autism spectrum disorders and other sensory difficulties.