Snow White dwarfs the others: pantomime loads of fun

THE APPLE OF THE EYE: Magda Szubanski as the evil Queen GrismeldaMANY years ago, whilst living in the UK, I had the pleasure of performing in a pantomime.
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Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood featured all of the hallmarks of this classic theatrical format: a “dame” (a man in drag); cheesy pop songs; a spooky forest (he’s behind you); sweets being thrown to the audience; a moustache twirling villain; and audience participation (booing and hissing).

It was great fun and the audience lapped it up.

Unfortunately, pantomime is not a theatrical staple in Australia. We’re trained to sit in our seats and behave.

Luckily for Sydney audiences, this hasn’t stopped Bonnie Lythgoe (UK based producer and director, and former judge on So You Think You Can Dance Australia) from bringing Snow White Winter Family Musical to the State Theatre, just in time for the school holidays.

Pantomimes classically feature a celebrity cast hamming it up and Lythgoe has managed to snag one of the big guns of Australian stage and screen comedy in Magda Szubanski, as the dastardly Queen Grismelda.

Also starring are Jimmy Rees (TV’s Giggle and Hoot), Peter Everett (Ready Steady Cook), Andrew Cutcliffe (Underbelly: Razor) and US based Aussie musical theatre star Josh Adamson.

For the titular role, Lythgoe ran a country-wide talent search in a non-specific shopping centre chain and unearthed Erin Clare, a blue eyed brunette whose looks just scream Snow White.

Oh, she can sing and dance too.

Lythgoe has also somehow managed to convince Sir Cliff Richard (the ultimate real life Peter Pan) and radio shock jock Kyle Sandilands to prerecord their parts as the split personalities of the magic mirror.

Rounding out the cast are two troupes of way too talented kiddies who alternate performances as the dancing ensemble and then don some rather creepy heads to portray the seven dwarves.

I was accompanied by two friends who were reasonably unfamiliar with panto, but egged on by Rees’ court jester Muddles, it didn’t take long for them (and the whole audience) to adapt to the concept of audience participation.

We hissed the villain. We cheered for the handsome prince.

We groaned at the opening chords of the obligatory One Direction songs.

I booed at Kyle Sandilands (his onscreen cameo is further proof to my theory that he isn’t actually human).

The cast is uniformly fantastic with Rees particularly amusing (minus his owl) and Szubanski able to make a fluffed line into a memorable opportunity for hilarity.

Everett was appropriately camp and new discovery Erin Clare is as beautiful as she is talented (but should stay away from poisoned apples to avoid typecasting and endless slumber).

Despite a rather clunky script, some underwritten characters and a flat second act, I had a great time. Worth the entry price alone is the best onstage flying illusion I have every seen, and I’ve seen a lot. Forget Mary Poppins, this is the real thing.

Let’s hope Snow White Winter Family Musical is a hit so Lythgow can make her panto an annual highlight on the rather ho-hum Sydney theatrical calendar. Next time, I’m going to take the kids.

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“Best behaviour for ‘beautiful game’

Eye on the ball: St Marys player Riley Jamet gets a kick away against Lowland Wanderers on Saturday. Officials have been concerned about behaviour at Nepean football matches this season. Picture: Geoff JonesNEPEAN Football Association has conceded that there’s been too many unsavoury incidents at football matches this season, and has called on clubs to ensure that the environment at matches is better.
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Nepean Football manager James Rankine sent a letter to all clubs asking to remember they’re involved in “the beautiful game”.

“We are receiving too many reports of bad behaviour, both on and off the field,” Rankine wrote.

“We have players being injured badly enough to lose jobs.

“We need to take ownership of this problem.”

Despite the problems, St Clair United Soccer Club president Mark Nelson said the situation wasn’t out of control.

“There’s been no more problems this year compared to previous years. There’s been incidences that shouldn’t have happened but it’s just a small minority ruining it for everyone else,” he said.

Nelson also didn’t think the incidents had anything to do with the controversial new referees association, controlled by Nepean.

“The new refs are a breath of fresh air,” he said.

St Marys Soccer Club president Joe Youssef has mixed feelings about the new Nepean Referees Group, which replaced the Nepean District Soccer Referees Association this season after a 50-year relationship with Nepean.

“The coverage is much better, but the standard isn’t,” Youssef said.

“From the feedback I get from my players and managers I’d give the new referees a 4/10 compared to last year’s who got about 7/10.

“One referee red-carded a player who hand-balled when the last line of defence, but wouldn’t send him off.”

But Youssef said it would be wrong to say the new group had failed considering it was just months old.

“I’m still happier this year because we’re getting more coverage, but I’m hoping they improve next year,” he said.

“I’m backing them subject to them improving and I’m confident they can.”

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Tall order

Chelsea D’Angelo and Nathan Catherwood will represent Victoria Country at the nationals. photograph samuel darrochBASKETBALL
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TwoTraralgon T-Birds will take flight at the Australian Junior Championships this week in Geelong.

Nathan Catherwood and Chelsea D’Angelo were selected for their respective Victoria Country under 16 sides for the tournament, and are keen to impress on the national stage.

“(We’re) playing against really good competition, kids from all over Australia. I think it will be a real tough challenge against all the people, and the audience as well… there’ll be a lot of pressure, but I think I’ll get through it and it will help me out with my confidence and probably my game as well,” Nathan said.

Both have ambitions to join the Australian Institute of Sport, and someday play in the United States, with plans to showcase their talent at the championships.

“Hopefully there’ll be someone watching and I’ll get scouted or something,” Chelsea said.

“But I’m just hoping to improve my game and really enjoy it.”

The pair has been involved with the National Intensive Training Program this season, a development program which took Nathan to the US in 2012.

Chelsea had previously played with School Sport Victoria sides, while Nathan was a Victoria Country emergency last season.

Breaking through this season for their highest representative honours to date has been closely tied to the ‘practice makes perfect’ mantra.

“I think just what I’ve been practicing over and over again, just repetition, doing the same thing over and over again and I think that got me through; just playing the way I play,” Nathan said.

Chelsea too cited hard work, while a few extra inches in height and “a lot of intensity in my game and really trying hard”, did no harm to her credentials.

As “the shortest guy in the team”, point guard Nathan relied on ball handling, passing and “a bit of shooting” to break through a three-phase trial process, which involved competing at the Australian Junior Country Cup in January.

Chelsea’s patented one-on-one drives to the basket were on show through her selection camps, and the duo were both quietly confident of selection.

“There was a couple of really good kids that were there that certainly have a lot of skill, but I felt really comfortable with where I was at,” Nathan said.

“You just don’t know what the coaches are looking for though, you think ‘I’m doing really well but are they going to pick me?” Chelsea said.

Inspired by the example of Australian representative Jack White, who is also a Traralgon local, the T-Bird twosome are optimistic about their representative futures.

“He grew up in the same area so I could follow him and do the same things he’s done,” Nathan said.

The Australian Championships are on until Saturday.

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Lunchtime fun to hit new levels: PHOTOS

Lunchtime fun to hit new levels: PHOTOS ESSCI volunteers (standing, from left) Geoff Swane, Mike McCrae, Ken Traise, John Mutch, Harry Weatherman, (sitting, from left) Mick Wood, John Bowles and Jim Chenhall donated their time to install fitness equipment surrounds at Eden Public School on Saturday.
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ESSCI volunteers install fitness equipment surrounds at Eden Public School on Tuesday.

ESSCI volunteer Harry Weatherman lets his shovel do the talking as ESSCI install fitness equipment surrounds at Eden Public School on Saturday.

Mike McCrae sands back the equipment surrounds during the ESSCI working bee at Eden Public School on Saturday.

ESSCI volunteer Geoff Swane puts in a nail as the group installs fitness equipment surrounds at Eden Public School on Tuesday.

A jungle gym is among the fitness equipment being installed at Eden Public School.

Fitness equipment is being installed for students at Eden Public School.

The balance beam is sure to be a crowd favourite at Eden Public School

You’ll be hard pressed to find a student who doesn’t want a go on the monkey bars at Eden Public School.

Jim Chenhall hard at work during the ESSCI working bee at Eden Public School on Saturday.

Fitness equipment surrounds are installed at Eden Public School on Saturday.

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Shellharbour residents rally to keep library:Videos

Shellharbour resident Patricia Wickham gathered with other residents at the Shellharbour Village library on Friday last week to rally against any proposals to move it to Shell Cove. Picture: Eliza WinklerJackson Calverly. By Eliza Winkler
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Jill Boothman. By Eliza Winkler

Paul Hockey. By Eliza Winkler

MORE than 30 residents joined together last Friday for the Save the Village Library Rally.

Councillor Kellie Marsh hosted the rally in response to Shellharbour City Council proposals to relocate the Shellharbour Village Library to Shell Cove.

A council spokesperson said there was a current strategy in place that explored the concept of moving the library to The Waterfront, Shell Cove development in 2018, however plans were only conceptual at this point and any changes would involve further community consultation.

Shellharbour resident Patricia Wickham said her main concern was accessibility and cost if the service was to be removed from the area.

“The library is used by a lot of the aged who live in the village, and most of them don’t drive,” Ms Wickham said.

“It worries me that we would have to rely on public transport.

‘‘It is an extra cost and also not easy using buses with walkers or other things some of us rely on to get around.

“It would be shame to see it go because it’s a real asset to this community and for the older people it is a way we can all keep our minds active.”

A council spokesperson said that if the library was to be relocated, current village library users would still have access to the service with expansions to the library’s home service.

The library is managed under a Libraries and Museums strategy 2024, which was adopted by council in March.

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