In front of the stage, hundreds of schoolchildren from across West Norfolk scream at the cast on stage “oh, no it isn’t”, while the well-loved Dame Dotty and her sidekick gather their breath for the next line.
You would be forgiven for thinking the true chaos of pantomime happens on stage, with giant sausages, seven dwarves and evil henchmen all lined up for Snow White and the Seven Dwarves at Lynn’s Corn Exchange.
But behind the scenes, a team of tightly rehearsed technical and staging experts prove the real hustle and bustle is waiting just off in the wings, where fast-paced costume changes and huge props are lying in wait.
Company stage manager Sarah Rhodes-Cannings said: “It’s carnage. There’s so many more than just me managing the whole thing, but I’m doing all the calls and letting people know their cues for onstage.”
A week into the production, things seem to be going well for the team. Sarah said: “It’s all going well so far, we’ve had a few technical problems but we’ve managed to fix those as we go along. We just have a really big set to fit into a really small space.”
The pantomime has a cast of 10 backed by over 20 dancers, leaving the backstage team with plenty to organise as they attempt to get everyone into costume and on stage between scenes.
Wardrobe mistress Catherine Sanger has her hands full as she attempts to fix costumes between the shows, naming the Prince and Hector the Henchman as the worst offenders. With 50 new costumes for this year’s show, she also faces the challenge of getting Dame Dotty out of one outrageous costume and into the next with just seconds to spare.
Meanwhile, up at the lighting desk at the back of the auditorium, Scott Hunter and the team behind all the special effects have the responsibility of lighting up the cast as they parade across the stage, and working the Magic Mirror.
On the day our entertainment reporter, Lucy Ruthnum, went backstage, the cast and crew were just finishing a lunchtime performance for the schools, and they finished with just 45 minutes to spare before their next schools’ show.
Those 45 minutes were spent hurrying the cast out of costume so they could have something to eat and rest, while the stagehands were still hard at work putting the original set back together and cleaning the stage. We disappeared off before the start of the next show, but were guaranteed it would be just as loud as the last one.