Norfolk theatres team up to bring a pair of panto puppets to life

Sheringham Little Theatre director Debbie Thompson with Ian Woods, Norwich Puppet Theatre operation

Sheringham Little Theatre director Debbie Thompson with Ian Woods, Norwich Puppet Theatre operations manager, left, and Matt Reeve, right. Also featured are puppets Toto and Coco, ready for a performance at Sheringham Little Theatre. Picture: Richard Batson - Credit: Archant

A naughty dog and cheeky monkey will star in a seaside pantomime, thanks to a link-up between two Norfolk theatres.

Sheringham Little Theatre has teamed up with Norwich Puppet Theatre, which has created the two stars for an all-action Wizard of Oz show.

'Toto is Dorothy's trusty sidekick from the traditional adventure story, but with an added bit of naughtiness,' said panto director Nick Earnshaw.

'Coco is the Wicked Witch's accomplice, but is a simple soul who goes off on tangents and will do anything for bananas.'

Panto cast members will be taught the art of puppetry in a workshop during rehearsals, with the two puppets made much more part of the cast and plot than in previous shows.


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'Puppetry and acting are both about bringing a character to life, but while actors can use their faces, puppeteers have do it through arm actions. It is much harder than you can imagine,' Mr Earnshaw said.

Toto and Coco were made by Norwich-based puppet maker Matt Reeve, who said turning Mr Earnshaw's ideas into characters was 'like creating a life'.

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Working from sketches and constructing the two puppets from wire, foam, cord and fabric took more than four weeks.

'The buzz comes from creating something youngsters will believe is real and enjoy connecting with,' Mr Reeve said.

Sheringham theatre director Debbie Thompson said: 'We are really proud of our pantos, which are popular with children and families, and puppets have become an important part of the magic and fun. We are lucky to have the expertise of the Norwich Puppet Theatre on our doorstep to create these fabulous characters that our audiences will love.'

The panto is based on the classic tale, which sees Dorothy head to the land of Oz with her new-found friends the Lion, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow.

Youngsters from local dance schools will join the professional cast to share a journey laced with magic, special effects, song and dance.

The Wizard of Oz runs at Sheringham Little Theatre from December 9th to January 1st. For tickets and information phone the box office on 01263 822347 or visit www.sheringhamlittletheatre.com

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