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Photo gallery: Panto set to show the fun side of council staff in north Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 06:30 16 January 2014

North Norfolk District Council panto cast. Picture: ROB HENRY/NNDC

North Norfolk District Council panto cast. Picture: ROB HENRY/NNDC

Archant

By day she deals with ballot boxes. But by night council official Laura Williamson picks up a bow and arrow and pulls on a Robin Hood outfit ready for some thigh-slapping pantomime fun.

And she is not alone. For among the other merry men and women around her are the head of environmental health, who switches his recycling role from new refuse to old jokes as a knockabout dame in flamboyant frocks.

For every couple of years “pantomonium” breaks out among the seemingly sober and serious staff of North Norfolk District Council

A show which began in 2002 as a one-night village hall event brimming with mostly in-jokes, has evolved into a three-nighter at Sheringham Little Theatre which is set to raise £10,000 for charities so far.

Rehearsals are under way ahead of the show later this month.

Scriptwriter and dame Steve Hems, who has been involved with all the shows, said: “Staff in the audience love watching someone from work making a fool of themselves, but we make it entertaining for the general public too now.

“I do enjoy it, although it’s the only acting I do. It’s a chance to do something different and gives people a lift among the work pressures.”

Mr Hems, 45, said his day job as head of environmental health included dealing with dog fouling, bin emptying, licensing, and recycling. In the panto he is Nursey Norma, the royal babysitter.

“When panto time comes along I recycle old gags instead - and once I pull a frock on I become larger-than-life and outrageous. People say as panto time approaches I start getting into character in the office and stand at their desk clutching my hands under my imaginary bosom.”

The lead role of Robin, and the job of producer, are being taken by Laura Williamson from election services, whose duties include organising elections, and lists of voters.

“I have loved the stage since I was at school, when I wanted to be a professional actress.

“I am a bit shy, but it is different when you hide behind a character - a lot of actors are the same.”

Taking part in the panto was good for team building and morale at the council, but also got her recognised by the public.

“People have stopped me and said ‘you are the cat from Dick Whittington’,” she added.

Miss Williamson from West Runton felt the panto helped break down the stereotype of staid council officials.

“This is a chance to show that we are actually human ...and of course a chance to poke a bit of fun at senior management and council members.”

Wells tourist office manager Bev Els, who helps with brochures, bookings and inquiries, and is playing Will Scarlett, agreed: “It makes us human because we do mess up a bit and it brings staff together.”

Her part involved “singing badly, which I can do well,” she added.

Other staff, and ex-staff, taking part include: communications manager Peter Battrick tackling two roles as the Judge and King Richard; Paul Neale, former PA to the chief executive and now assistant minister at Cromer Church, as the evil Notif of Sheringham; and customer services adviser Neena Garnavos as Maid Marion.

Policy and performance manager Helen Thomas and her team are creating the scenery and props in their spare time and the orchestra pit is populated by the Panto Loons band from the planning and economic development teams.

■The panto - the Notif of Sheringham - runs at the Sheringham Little Theatre from Thursday January 23 to Saturday January 25 with evening shows at 7.30pm and a 2.30pm matinee. Ticket £8 from the box office on 01263 822347

Proceeds from this year’s show will go to the Nelson’s Journey charity supporting bereaved children.

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