Entertainment

The making of Nelson's pantomime

Laurie Jarvis, centre, is director and writer for this year
Laurie Jarvis, centre, is director and writer for this year's pantomime. She's pictured here with Eva Myers-McKimm, left, and her daughter Hannah Jarvis-Lingard during a rehearsal earlier this month.
— image credit: Bob Hall photo

Laurie Jarvis has seen a lot of pantomimes performed in Nelson.

The annual Christmas show has been a local tradition for 25 years and Jarvis has been a part of nearly all of them.

She got her start as an actor then, after several years doing that, she moved into the director's chair. She doesn't know exactly how many pantomimes she's directed ("They all kind of blur together," she says) but it's safe to say it's been at least a dozen.

It's easier for Jarvis to tell you how many pantomimes she's written: this year's show first one she's ever written one. She penned Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of Buskerville over the summer after searching unsuccessfully for a panto script based on the fictional London detective.

"Some years we buy the script and some years we find free ones written by other community theatre groups — whatever script we get, there's always a lot of editing work to add in local references and current events," Jarvis explains.

"I've read enough pantomimes to pick up on the format, so when I couldn't find a script I liked, I figured it wouldn't be too much extra trouble to just write one."

The staple characters in every pantomime are the hero, the villain and the dame (a man dressed in women's clothing). Jarvis says it was easy to find Sherlock Homes characters that fit the bill.

She wrote a skeleton of script then, in September after parts were cast, she left it to the small army of actors to expand on her work.

"A lot of what's funny in the play are things the cast members came up with in rehearsals and we found a way to work in," Jarvis says. "That's the beauty of pantomime; they really just take on a life of their own. Even from opening night to closing night, someone might come up with something and we'll just add it in."

The humour aims to appeal to audiences of all ages, with a mix of innuendos for the adults to chuckle at and slap stick comedy to entertain the kids.

The actors, who all volunteer their time to be in the play, range in age and experience. Jarvis said there's a lot of new faces in the cast this year and she hopes that will also bring out some new audience members.

"The idea is to come and watch your friends and family do silly things," she said. "If people sitting in the audience like what they see, they should come to auditions next year and be a part of it."

The pantomime is a fundraiser for the Capitol Theatre that helps fund its year-round operation.

Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of Buskerville runs November 29, 30 and December 1 at 7:30 p.m., with matinees on December 1 and 2 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adult, $10 for student and senior, and $45  for a family of four. Buy online at capitoltheatre.bc.ca or phone 250-352-6363.

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