This time of year is traditionally panto time, but not in Coldstream this year – oh no it wasn’t.
Instead the town was transported back to the bleak Christmas of 1944 – the war had taken its toll on families and communities were worn down by the rationing and the perpetual threat of air raids as well as being separated from loved ones.
And after a week of enduring the wintry weather at its worst, the snow outside, the battling spirit of both audience and cast to get to Coldstream Community Centre for the performances of Christmas 44’ gave it an authentic feel, particularly as the centre was bedecked in paper chains, flags and war posters.
‘Christmas 44’ was written by two members of Coldstream Community Theatre, Arthur Parsons and Janet Hodge, providing their audiences with something different from a traditional panto or Christmas show.
From the public service announcement at the start of the musical play, when the audience was told where all fire exits were and what to do in the event of an air raid siren going off, there was no escaping the fact that we were back in the days of absent husbands and fathers away fighting in the war, women doing their bit for the war effort, which on this occasion meant making paper chain Christmas decorations for the pre-Christmas concert, and evacuees coping with being away from home.
The mayor of the town (Arthur Parsons) was one of very few men left behind and both he and his wife made the most of their elevated position in the community, his wife in particular (Jackie Forrest) getting quite carried away with herself.
Without a shadow of a doubt the star of the show was the growing number of youngsters who are now part of Coldstream Community Theatre. Every last one of them put their heart and sole into the performance and those with main roles certainly shone, although the others were certainly no shrinking violets. It would appear that Coldstream has plenty of young talent and they are certainly being brought on well by the company’s producers.
As the play progressed towards the grand finale of the Christmas concert and the mayor’s daughter (Zara Lunn) was expected to be the star of the show it soon became clear that a mere slip of a girl evacuee was going to outshine her.
Good as she was, and she did have a lovely singing voice, the largest performance on stage that night was that of big band leader(ok there were only two members of the big band Gordon Tams and Alec Young, but let’s not quibble), Victor Smooth (played outrageously by John Hiscox).
With good old war time songs to join in with, most of them expertly led by Helen Deane, plenty of humour provided by the womenfolk and a happy ending with a missing husband and father turning up as Father Christmas, the play had a warmth and feel-good factor about it that cheered the audience on a bitterly cold and frosty winter’s evening – just as intended.