Fun and frolics for all at the East Tuddenham Palladium

PUBLISHED: 11:52 22 January 2019

Strictly Come Prancing! A motley formation crew of pirates .. with a friendly crocodile to add panto glamour

Strictly Come Prancing! A motley formation crew of pirates .. with a friendly crocodile to add panto glamour


Friends of Norfolk Dialect are approaching their 20th birthday celebrations and keen to recruit new members. Keith Skipper says this year’s brilliant panto is a great example of the fun potential members can get involved in

It’s worth the liberty of slightly misquoting comedy genius Eric Morecambe in attempting to make any sense of Friends Of Norfolk Dialect’s latest chaotic romp of a pantomime.

“We are following all the right lines … but not necessarily in the right order!” might have provided a slight clue for another full house hungry for genuine local culture on Sunday Afternoon at the East Tuddenham Palladium.

Peter Pan and the Lost Old Boys couldn’t find a way out of a glorious world of freewheeling confusion largely based on the premise that a script and outfit delivered to excitable strolling players just before kick-off are merely a rough guide to how any action unfolds.

After my comeback the previous year as a clock with a big pendulum, a cameo role as a pirate with a wobbly plastic cutlass and a few salty lines left me plenty of scope to study truly shameless colleagues with a penchant for proper off-the-cuff silliness.

I won’t reveal real names of the keenest offenders for fear of encouraging even deeper dives next year into murky pools of absurdity. Even so, a couple of would-be mermaids letting off steam as Lydia and Eva and a Tinkerbell with flights of fancy way above laws of gravity do spring to mind.

On the other hand, there were worrying moments of a semblance of order breaking out. Evergreen narrator Colin Burleigh filled the odd hiatus with a kindly prompt or timely quip. Co-writers Monica Rackham (Captain Hook) and her daughter Diana (Peter Pan) couldn’t help hinting they actually knew what they were doing and saying.

Special guests from the Blakeney Old Wild Rovers added muscle and melody to the mix with a series of songs, rousing and gentle in turn. Then, freed from the shackles of performing as a cohesive group, they surrendered gleefully to the call of unbridled mayhem to ensure a FOND reputation for ad hoc daftness rolls on undaunted.

Full marks to members of the Occasional Ceilidh Band for coming up with appropriate sound effects and musical support as the plot thinned and desperate instincts multiplied on stage.

One more worldly member of our audience suggested after it had been like “a rehearsal for Brexit”. I had to put her straight. These frolicsome thespians have no truck with rehearsals.

As a graduate of BAFTA – Beeston And Fransham Theatrical Academy – in the 1950s, I was weaned on this brand of impromptu homemade entertainment, often poking fun at each other for starters. The school dressing-up box tested imaginations on Friday afternoons. The village hall social urged grown-ups to do the same on Saturday nights.

“We had to make our own amusement in those days” is a bit more than a nostalgic sigh towards a time when community cohesion and continuity could be taken for granted. It serves also as a handy reminder it can be recycled to break down current apathy and suspicion, especially in fast-growing villages.

When I achieved a long-held ambition as founder-chairman of Friends Of Norfolk Dialect in 1999, one of my key planks in this new platform was to share our precious vernacular and humour in a homely and unpretentious way.

Social events inevitably labelled FOND-dews, have taken an entertaining message to all parts of the county. The Trosher Prize, an annual competition to encourage short stories and poems written and performed with that distinctive local flavour, and The Merry Mawkin magazine for members continue to play important roles.

Perhaps the image of a cosy club for old fogeys mardling about the past still lingers despite countless projects and visits to schools spearheaded by former chairman and current education officer Norman Hart. Sadly, few seats of local learning can find space in a packed curriculum for a serious spotlight on our native tongue.

As 20th birthday celebrations approach, FOND needs fresh blood to carry on shedding light on a corner where cobwebs of indifference can too easily multiply along with the dust of derision. Present leader, charismatic teacher Diana Rackham is by far the youngest enthusiast to take the helm in our movement’s history.

She and her hard-working team deserve more support to keep the flag flying. If you’re interested in lending a hand, find out how to join FOND on their popular website

Who knows, you could finish up on stage for a scatty show full of compelling Norfolk rhyme – but significantly bereft of any clear reason!

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