Set sail with Spittal Variety

Spittal variety duo Jennifer Greenwood and Jonny Scott with old copies of Robinson Crusoe programmes
Spittal variety duo Jennifer Greenwood and Jonny Scott with old copies of Robinson Crusoe programmes

While most panto casts are taking a well deserved break, Spittal Variety Group are readying themselves for the stage.

The local ensemble are bringing ‘Robinson Crusoe’ to The Maltings on January 16 for a five night run, hot on the heels of ‘Snow White’ which was a big success for them in 2013.

This year’s panto is something of a family affair with two sets of mother and daughter amongst those busy learning their lines.

Long serving cast member Fiona Dunn is back to tread the boards again this year as Cross Bones and she will be sharing the stage with her daughter Laura who is returning to the panto fold to play the title role, a part taken by Fiona back in 1986.

And the other family connection comes courtesy of youngsters Georgia Young, who is playing Hocus Pocus, and her mum Sharon who is thrilled to be back with SVG as Mumbo Jumbo after a long break.

Also among the cast are Jennifer Greenwood who is playing Coral, Spirit of the Sea and Jonny Scott who is hoping to get plenty of laughs as Nutty Nick, the son of Margarita Juiciita, a role of course taken on by long serving dame John Dougall.

This year marks Jennifer’s 35th year with Spittal Variety, meaning she’s done her fair share of thigh slapping in various pantos.

“I haven’t a clue how many pantomimes I’ve actually been in now; I dread to think,” she joked.

“I think the reason I keep coming back is that it’s so much fun. Everyone gets right into the spirit.

“We’re lucky to have a really good following of people who come back to see our pantos year after year. Last year we had people wanting to make group bookings for this year as soon as we finished.

“Having loads of local people in the cast helps a lot as well I think,” commented Jonny, who is now on his seventh panto with SVG.

“People like the local jokes and the fact that John ad-libs quite a lot and cracks jokes with faces he recognises in the audience.”

The script for ‘Robinson Crusoe, penned by Alan Frayn, who also wrote ‘Snow White’, was revised last year meaning it’s bang up to date with popular culture references.

“It’s very topical,” Jennifer added.

“And extremely tongue-in-cheek.

“There’s a great scene between Margarita and the captain which is very flirtatious and will probably go over children’s heads but adults will love it!”

The script isn’t the only thing with a real modern feel, the musical repertoire includes plenty of chart favourites.

“‘Mambo No.5’ is in there as well as ‘The Flood’ by Take That and ‘Blurred Lines’ by Robin Thicke,” Jennifer continued.

“We’ve also got ‘When You’re Good To Mama’ from ‘Chicago’ which we’ve changed to ‘When You’re Good To Mumbo’.”

The panto takes Robinson Crusoe to the Caribbean, giving the second half a real carnival feel.

“It’s like the Mardi Gras,” Jonny said.

“If people are wanting a Caribbean cruise they should set sail with us.”

*‘Robinson Crusoe is on at The Maltings from January 21-26.