PTA Fundraising

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Chiddingfold has talent!

Thursday 26 January 2023. Written by Sophie Disley.

With a puff of smoke and a sprinkling of panto magic, the talented residents of Chiddingfold village delivered a knock-out performance of Cinderella - The Pantomime to the local community for the first time in over 20 years.

“Highly entertaining and enjoyable. A treat for all ages - one of the best Panto experiences ever!”

Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 January 2023 saw the Chiddingfold Village Hall magically transformed into the town of Florizel, home of Cinderella and her wicked stepfamily the Hardups, for three spectacular sold-out pantomime performances.

Life-long resident, Mrs Elizabeth Spicer (91), who also watched a performance of Cinderella some 72 years ago at the Village Hall back in 1951, was delighted to see the pantomime return to her beloved village. “I thoroughly enjoyed it. Absolutely brilliant.” she said.

The Chiddingfold Original Panto Society (C.O.P.S.) headed up by Lisa Olsworth-Peter was formed in October 2022. Self-proclaimed “madcap dreamer”, Lisa’s inspiration came at the local school Christmas Fair whilst thinking up ideas to help support the school PTA.

“A thigh-slapping, rip-roaring panto triumph for Chiddingfold!”

“Absolutely magical - slick, professional, witty and fun.”

Lisa started in the world of pantomime at the tender age of 14 as a follow spot operator, working with David Lee (who has provided all the fabulous costumes, set, props). After studying at the Royal Academy of music she went onto perform alongside Judi Dench at the RSC, in Les Miserable at the Queens Theatre London as well as international tours with Andrew Lloyd Webber.

She played the Fairy in Panto for many years before hanging up her wand to head up the musical theatre programme for the Urdang Academy London. There she directed many productions including Godspell, Spring Awakening, Wicked, Lion King. More recently she has taken the role of Director of Spring Harvest and mum to 3 gorgeous ‘spirited’ children who will no doubt tread the boards themselves at some point.

“Absolutely what the village has been missing! What an absolute hit. Super talented bunch!”

Once the tickets were released in October, they sold out within hours to local families. It was clear from the very beginning, there was a huge appetite for these shows. Fortunately, the company were able to release a few more tickets at a later date. They soon became the hottest tickets in town with everyone looking to get their hands on one at all costs.

Audiences at all three performances were wowed beyond their wildest dreams as the wonder and magic of Pantomime came to their quintessential Surrey village. The stand out audience comments focussed on the wealth of talent and commitment that shone through, from director, cast, front of house, crew, production and everyone involved.

Given the C.O.P.S. formation just a mere 16 weeks prior to the first performance, it made the shows even more remarkable. A lot of the cast had never set foot on a stage before, yet they put it all together in the equivalent of 48 hours rehearsal time. Some of the cast had even less time, due to illness causing a couple of recasts along the way. A truly staggering achievement.

“Very enjoyable. Entertaining from start to finish. Good venue, good cast and a good story.”

 “Absolutely amazing show! Rivals the professionals any day.”

The adaptation, full of local humour, told of the famous yet classic rags to riches story. Cinderella (Amelia Whymark) lives a life of drudgery, bullied by her horrible step-sisters, Fannie (Matt Quirk) and Annie (Billie-Joe Duddell) and their mother Baroness Evilia Hardup (Vicki Church). Her only comfort is her pal Buttons (Karen Gillingham). Prince Charming (Oli Shepherd) and his trusty sidekick Dandini (Shannon Hayward) are hosting a glamorous ball to meet his bride-to-be. Despite the best efforts of her two malicious step-sisters and her wicked step-mother, Cinderella shall go to the ball. With the help of her rather dazzling Fairy Godmother (Tina Gaunt), and a sprinkling of pantomime charm!

The children of Florizel included 16 local children from St.Mary’s Primary School with the youngest at just 6 years old and the oldest being a recent Year 6 graduate.

“Absolutely phenomenal entertainment. Such talented performers from the very smallest up. A fantastic afternoon well done to all involved”

It really is fascinating when a community comes together, there are so many talents that come to light and join to produce something quite astonishing.

Mrs Buckley, Headteacher at St. Mary’s CofE Primary School said, “We are still buzzing here at St Mary’s with happiness and pride at the astonishing creativity and talent of our pupils, parents and our brilliant PTA. Cinderella - The Pantomime was an amazing success. As all audience attendees will attest, it was simply spectacular. I couldn’t quite believe what I was witnessing in our village, starring our parents and members of the community. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! How lucky we are to have them all in our community.”

 The production benefited from a number of skilled village residents, all giving up their precious time for free. Lisa Olsworth-Peter (Director & Musical Director), Karen Gillingham (Assistant Director and Choreographer), Carrie White (Producer), Graham Sheldrake (Drums and Percussion), Graham Moir (Sound), Mark Diamond (Lighting), David Lee (Script), Ed Olsworth-Peter (Stage Manager), Chris Bysouth and Mat Elcox (Set Build / Stage Crew), Set & costumes supplied by Pantoni Pantomimes, Tracy Stiles (Wardrobe Mistress), Sophie Disley (Marketing & Advertising), Paula Botting (Sponsorship), Imogen Quirk (Front of House Coordinator) and St Mary's School PTA and friends (Front of House Support).

“Absolutely fantastic, the cast were amazing and everyone involved gave their heart and soul. Roll on next year please.”

 Thanks to the ever-generous local community and sponsoring businesses in the village, the show raised thousands for the school PTA.

“Absolutely surpassed my expectations in every way….cast were like pros! The stage and all the set up of welcome/interval was so seamless. Truly such a special thing has been created!”

Sponsors for 2023 included: Independent Property Solutions, Box Broadband, The Little Gym Godalming, Chiddingfold Cinema, The Mulberry Inn, Elliott’s Coffee Shop, Barnkids, The Swan Inn, The Crown Inn, Crown Design & Print, Mr Fix-It Chiddingfold, TimberNook, Fentimans, Wessex Distillery, Mamma Lourdes Pizza, Lindsey Wright Fitness, and Blue Sky Tree Care.

Lisa and the C.O.P.S. really did wave a very special magic wand over Chiddingfold and created a phenomenon that is set to live on for many more years to come. Look out for tickets for 2024… they are sure to sell out once more.

Give the C.O.P.S. a follow to keep up with their latest announcements…

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All enquiries to Sophie Disley