THE RENMORE Pantomime is as much a part of Christmas in Galway as mulled wine and mistletoe and this year’s festive offering is Cinderella, which opens at the Town Hall Theatre on Monday December 29.
The Renmore Panto was recently featured on Derek Mooney’s RTÉ Radio 1 show in an item that paid tribute to its community spirit. Over a Sunday afternoon chat, I asked Brian Power, who, along with his brother Sean, is directing the show, how the company retains that spirit, given the panto has long outgrown its Renmore roots.
“What has happened over the years is that it now embraces the Galway community rather than just the local Renmore community,” he replies. “That said, it still has a very solid Renmore base when it comes to the committee and organisation behind the panto. Sean and myself have been directing it for the last 20 or so years and we work closely with founder-member Joe McCarthy who is now our president.
“You have people like Mary Loughnane in costumes, Anne McElwaine our chair, and others who are still part and parcel of it and they keep community very much to the forefront and give it a sense of continuity. These days we look to bring talent from all over Galway onstage in the production. We are also very cognisant of things like ticket prices - our tickets are very reasonably priced compared to Dublin. It’s still very much focused on family entertainment.”
Cinderella is scripted by Peter Kennedy, and as ever, he adds an entertaining twist to whichever classic fairytale the panto is staging. So what has he cooked up for Cinderella?
“What Peter has done this year is to draw on the story of Donald Trump who came to Doonbeg to buy a golf course,” Power reveals. “We are using that as the royal palace so to speak. Then you have his son and it’s all about him going out to find someone to marry. Donald Trumpet, as he’s named in the show, and his ex-wife are going through a difficult time. She can to stop the prince from marrying another lady because she would then lose all access to Trumpet’s wealth.
“There is one scene about the two Ugly Sisters trying to learn how to play golf which will help them get to meet the prince and get into the castle. Aside from that twist the story stays true to the tradition of the Cinderella fairytale, we still have the rags to riches element, the glass slipper, the drama of the clock striking 12 and so on.”
Sensory friendly performance
In what is a first for Renmore Pantomime, the show on Sunday January 4 at 12 noon is a special sensory friendly performance, specially adapted to the needs of children on the autism spectrum or with other sensory difficulties. Brian reveals how it came about.
“Last year we donated some of our raffle proceeds to the Galway Autism Partnership and from that we started wondering how we could bring in the GAP community to the show,” he says. “We felt it would be lovely for families who have a son, daughter, or whoever has autism, to be able to bring them to the panto.
“We’ll have to change some of the special effects in the show, to take out or reduce any loud noises. Similarly with lighting, you have to ensure there are no strobe lights or whatever in the show and that there is some light in the auditorium so that it is not in complete darkness. The sensory performance is still open to the general public but numbers will be restricted somewhat, the Town Hall won’t fill the auditorium.
“There is some space left around those families with autistic kids at the show so that they can move around if they want to. We will also have chill-out zones on both levels of the theatre if any parent needs to take their child there because they are feeling restless or uncomfortable. GAP were all on for it when we approached them with the idea.”
Cinderella runs at the Town Hall Theatre from December 29 to January 11 with a 2.30pm matinee on December 29, 30, 31, and January 1, 3, and 10; 12 noon and 4.30pm matinees on Sundays January 4 and 11; and 7.30pm shows on December 29 and 30 and January 1 to 3 and 7 to 10. Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie