Hitchin’s world-beating adult panto run is over for another year. Oh no it isn’t!
- Credit: Archant
We’re heading into the summer, social diaries are beginning to fill with fetes, barbecues and other fresh air fun – but in a corner of Hitchin, the world’s longest-running panto is still plugging away.
The final curtain was due to come down on Snow White and the Magnificent Seven – a slightly misguiding title, as there are only three people in the cast – at the weekend.
But even though the adults-only Market Theatre production started its run back at the beginning of December demand for tickets meant that another show had to be added - and that final bow is now due this Friday, May 13.
But even with one more show to go team are already getting set for the venue’s saucy summer show – a panto in Roman clothing, which last year boasted the dubious title of The Maximus Durex and this summer will offer a musical mash-up called The Oral Examination.
And the next pint-sized show off the production line, which this year will be called Puss & Dick, is on the drawing board, too.
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It’s not subtle, but it’s undeniably a success. And, like bigger venues, the bums that the panto puts on seats in Hitchin and when the show goes on tour helps support less box office friendly offerings at the theatre – which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.
That proud boast of staging the world’s longest run hasn’t exactly been ratified by the Guinness Book of Records, but it’s one that the team is confident to claim.
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Artistic director Kirk Foster said: “I’d be amazed if anyone came and said: ‘We run longer than you!
“We’ve been saying it for eight years now, I don’t know of any other panto that continues past January.”
Theatre manager Glyn Doggett added: “We don’t have official confirmation that it is the longest, but I would have thought it is – panto is not performed in many other countries and we are yet to come across any other theatres here that run for longer.”
The show is a three-hander packed with raunchy plots and outrageous innuendo. It doesn’t play every night of the week and has also been on the road – in January a three-week tour visited seven venues including Hastings, Swindon and Southend.
The cast members are familiar faces. Pippa Johnson, 25, moved to Hitchin to be part of the Market Theatre family. She runs a yoga business but she’s been part of the panto for the last four years as well as appearing in other shows, including two-handed drama The Game, one of the offerings in the venue’s anniversary programme.
She said: “We have a great time being part of the adult panto, it’s great fun and such a laugh. I love the playfulness and sexuality of it
“We are lucky as the three of us are really good friends. We trust each other and often have fun and improvise some bits.
“There is so much audience participation and it’s different every night.”
Sharing the stage in The Game is Nick Hooton, another panto regular who has featured in the show for the last 12 years.
Nick, 32, also lives in the town and combines his acting career with teaching drama.
And completing the cast is Carrie Laurence, who relishes being the baddy of the piece.
The panto became part of the Market Theatre calendar early on – it is now in its 19th year and continues to grow in popularity.
In its first year, the combined audience was less than 500, but when the curtain comes down this year more than 6,000 will have seen the show.
To find out about Friday’s show and what else is coming up at the venue, visit www.markettheatre.co.uk.