Donnington’s community spirit, is not only alive and well but is currently wearing tights and, in the vicar’s case, a fairy outfit!
Revving up to play Little John in Robin Hood, this year’s fun-filled panto at Donnington Community Hall (January 20/21), cast member Simon Pegg is especially delighted at how the production has inspired new friendships.
“Although it is being directed by Liz Cooper, the vicar’s wife, the project involves the whole community. People aged five to 90 are getting stuck in. I am playing Little John. He is second in command to Robin but he spends most of the time trying to avoid the clutches of Dame Hood, Robin’s mum.
“Last year we did our first pantomime, A Lad in a Manger; a cross between Aladdin and the Nativity. It attracted an audience from right across Chichester and by the final show we were turning them away. We have reconfigured the seating so we can accommodate a bigger audience this year.”
With a cast of 25 and teams of helpers backstage and front of house, there seems to be no shortage of willing volunteers.
“It is a big commitment but it is very rewarding,” explained Simon. “We rehearse at least once a week, but last year we had such a good time and made such a lot of new friends through the process that we definitely wanted to do it again.
“We also raise money for good causes. Half the proceeds will go to a local charity and half will go to the parish hall, so it raises money for the local and greater local community. It is a win-win situation,” said Simon, who as well as being a church warden at St George’s has a demanding job as a civil engineer and is dad to twins.
“The panto is the easy bit,” he joked, adding: “My wife is helping out backstage, my son is doing some of the technical work and my daughter is in the cast. Several families have multiple participants and it’s a lovely way to spend time together.”
As for St George’s vicar James Cooper, he’ll be winging it. Literally.
“James is playing the fairy. He’s really game for a laugh and he recognises that this is something that can be achieved by all the community, not just the church. That it is very much a community project has been the main driving force.
“And just wait until you see the dame! There are definitely sights to behold,” promised Simon.
Tickets for Robin Hood at Donnington Community Hall: £5 (includes choc-ice): 01243 788321 or 01243 780017.
Performances: 2pm & 7pm Saturday 20 January; 6pm on Sunday 21. A prosecco bar will be available for adults during the interval.