It's behind you! How theatre company has made 50 years of panto magic

The Lowestoft Players first pantomime, Cinderella, in 1968.

The Lowestoft Players first pantomime, Cinderella, in 1968. Picture: Lowestoft Players - Credit: Lowestoft Players

It's been a traditional festive treat that has provided laughs aplenty in a coastal town for more than 50 years.

Popular amateur dramatics society, The Lowestoft Players, have been staging pantomimes for the enjoyment of the town for 51 years.

A scene from the Lowestoft Players panto Robin Hood in 2019.

A scene from the Lowestoft Players panto Robin Hood in 2019. Picture: Lowestoft Players - Credit: Lowestoft Players

Sadly this year, due to Covid-19 restrictions, it is not possible to put on a show.

So we've trawled the archives and teamed up with the Lowestoft Players for this special pantomime feature.

With pantomime often being a child’s first experience of live theatre, the first Lowestoft Players pantomime, Cinderella, was performed at The Sparrows Nest Theatre in 1968.

Back in 1971, the Lowestoft Players were about to put on their production of Sleeping Beauty.

Back in 1971, the Lowestoft Players were about to put on their production of Sleeping Beauty at the Marina Theatre. Picture: Archant archives - Credit: Archant


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Since then, there have been 53 pantomimes over 51 years for the Lowestoft Players featuring 13 different titles and a total of 545 individual performances in that time.

With the last pantomime being Aladdin at The Marina Theatre in 2020, Lowestoft Players pantos over the years have been enjoyed by a total audience of 321,500 people.

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There have been 459 main characters and 14,000 costumes worn in this time

The very popular Cinderella was the first pantomime staged by The Lowestoft Players in 1968 in The Sparrows Nest Theatre, Lowestoft.

Lowestoft Suffolk -- Lowestoft People and GroupsA fairytale moment from the Lowestoft Players' p

A fairytale moment from the Lowestoft Players' production of Cinderella in January 1969. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

This theatre was built in 1913 and was demolished in 1991 when the Lowestoft Players moved their shows to the Marina Theatre in Lowestoft.

Back in 1968, Cinderella was warmly received by the town and with the Lowestoft Players staging annual pantomimes ever since, over the years the shows have become more extravagant with hired in scenery and special technical effects.

Lowestoft Suffolk -- Lowestoft People and GroupsPuss in Boots presented by Lowestoft Players at

In 1976, Puss in Boots was presented by Lowestoft Players at the Sparrow's Nest Theatre. In the foreground are Jack (Stephen Wilson) with principal boy played Tom (Sally Ennew) and her cat (Avril Randall). Picture: Archant archives - Credit: Archant

So what makes a good pantomime?

Stephen Wilson has been a member of the Lowestoft Players for 46 years.

Stephen Wilson (right) has been a popular panto dame for the Lowestoft Players productions for many years.

Stephen Wilson (right) has been a popular panto dame for the Lowestoft Players productions for many years. Here in the 2013 panto Sleeping Beauty, featuring The Queen Bee, with Lewis Caplin (left). Picture: Scenic Projects - Credit: Scenic Projects

Well known for his role as a Dame, he said: “Creating a pantomime is like making a cake, there are certain ingredients which must be included so that it can be enjoyed by everyone.

"The obvious ingredients are good characters - some good, some evil and some comical.

"Everyone expects to laugh during a pantomime, even if the jokes are old and a little corny!

"There’s also music, song, dance, love, hate and peril all performed wearing fabulous costumes in front of a backdrop of colourful and eye catching scenery.

A comedy ballet performance in the Lowestoft Players panto, Sleeping Beauty, in 2013.

A comedy ballet performance in the Lowestoft Players panto, Sleeping Beauty, in 2013. Picture: Scenic Projects - Credit: Scenic Projects

"Probably the most important ingredient of all is a happy ending.

"Everyone loves a happy ending.”

With it being traditional for some male characters to be played by females and some female characters to be played by men – pantomime dames often get the biggest laughs.

Some favourite costumes for Lowestoft dames have included an English breakfast complete with three dimensional sausages and fried eggs or a birthday cake with a hat in the style of a candle.

The Lowestoft Players panto in 2012 - two dames from Cinderella wearing their egg, sausage and bacon costumes.

The Lowestoft Players panto in 2012 - two dames from Cinderella wearing their egg, sausage and bacon costumes. Picture: Lowestoft Players - Credit: Lowestoft Players

Behind the scenes, work starts around 14 months in advance for the Lowestoft Players when the title of the pantomime is first decided upon.

Each show requires a small army of backstage volunteers, as each pantomime can have over 200 lighting changes.

Scenes containing ‘slapstick’ are always very popular and usually exceptionally messy.

But did you know that the ‘gunge’ used in these scenes is actually made from the creamy dessert of Angel Delight?

The past pantomimes performed by The Lowestoft Players include:

Aladdin – 1970, 1978, 1984, 1990, 1997, 2004, 2010, 2020

Babes in the Wood – 1971, 1981,1988

In 2009 Lowestoft Players staged the panto Beauty and The Beast.

In 2009 Lowestoft Players staged the panto Beauty and The Beast. Picture: Lowestoft Players - Credit: Lowestoft Players

Beauty and the Beast – 1996, 2001, 2009, 2014

Cinderella – 1968, 1976, 1983, 1989, 1994, 2000, 2005, 2000, 2012, 2018

Dick Whittington – 1979, 1985, 1991, 2002, 2016

Jack and the Beanstalk – 1973, 1980, 1986, 1992, 2000, 2007, 2015

Mother Goose – 1975

Puss in Boots – 1977, 1987

Robin Hood – 2011

Robin Hood and Babes in the Wood – 1995, 2019

Robinson Crusoe – 1974

Sleeping Beauty – 1972, 1982, 1998, 2003, 2013

Snow White’s Fairy Godmother in the Lowestoft Players panto in 2017.

Snow White’s Fairy Godmother in the Lowestoft Players panto in 2017. Picture: Lowestoft Players - Credit: Lowestoft Players

Snow White – 1993, 1999, 2006, 2017

With the popular pantomime of Beauty and Beast due to be performed by The Lowestoft Players at The Marina Theatre this month, don’t worry, you won’t miss out as it has been postponed until January 2022.

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