To coincide with Castlebar Pantomime as it celebrates its 20th Anniversary
with a production of "Panto At The OK Corral", we continue to look back into the
history of this local tradition from 1991 to its 10th Anniversary in 1995.
Previously we reviewed the Castlebar Pantomime years from 1951 to 1965 and
followed with the revived Castlebar Pantomimes history from 1986 to 1990. "Jack
and The Beanstalk" was the 1991 production, produced by Adrian Gavin; choral
director was Netta Kennedy and choreography by Monica Masterson, Jason Guthrie,
Toni and Michael Devanney. panto legend has it that, Jason Guthrie watched his
first Pantomime in 1986 on his Mother's knee and swore as he left "Dick
Whittington", that next year he would be on stage. Never one to break a promise,
Jason joined the chorus from 1987 to 1990 but, 1991 saw him step into his future
role as pantomime choreographer. A role, which he has annually continued to the
present day, in an unending array of dance moves patiently, taught to 100's of
members of the adult and junior chorus alike.
|1991 - The Dancers from Jack & The Beanstalk. L-R Fiona Cashin, Brian Murphy, Geraldine Cummins, Vincent Gillespie & Irene Gillespie.|
Of course you could not mention Jason without also mentioning, his friend of
many of many years, Rowena Gillespie who also joined Castlebar Pantomime in
1987. Rowena like Jason has been in each pantomime since 1987 except of course,
for exam years where it is a Castlebar Pantomime policy that those members
taking part in exams are excused for that year. There will always be another
pantomime but you only get one shot at the Junior or Leaving Cert, has always
been the rule!
Frank Forde dived into his role as Dame Durden with his usual enthusiasm and
many a principal on stage was left wondering where the script had disappeared to
as Frank ad-libbed at speed before them. Some people never knew how to bring him
back to familiar lines. But not so Clare Kenny as Fairy Evergreen, who one night
on stamped her foot and yelled "Shut up Frank!" which silenced the usually vocal
Mr. Forde mid ad-lib.
Even Frank Forde could not compete with the unexpected star of "Jack and The
Beanstalk"; Daisy The Cow stole the show. But, when you consider that he was up
against the joint if disguised talents of Tony Hiney and Brendan Heneghan, what
hope did poor Frank have? No doubt they showed him how to milk the system
financially and how to live the health shop way of life as an act of
compensation. The second duo to provide a larger than life role, were Tony
Varley and Sean Mulroy as The Two Headed Giant Blunderbore. Tony has still
maintained his role as Islandeady N.S. Head, while Sean headed off to the
brighter theatre lights of the big city following their close association in
tormenting poor Jack played by Liam Connell.
The WHB's finest speech therapists found a new outlet for their skills, when
Colette McGinty and Loretta O'Malley appeared as Sir Bertram Bubble and Sir
Sydney Squeak. Their own parents would have had difficulty in identifying these
two lovely lassies on stage due to their well fitting beards!
Marina Rice played the part of Jumping Joan which involved her spending the
entire show (or as much of it as she physically could) literally jumping around
while delivering her lines in the professional manner only our Marina could
achieve. While researching this, Marina looked back on the role with mixed
memories. Although she was never as fit in her life, her aching muscles were a
tough price to pay for getting rid of the Christmas pounds....
Another lady who survived the panto stage was one Joanne Kyne who played
Princess Felicia. There may have been no Prince Charming in "Jack and The
Beanstalk" but Joanne landed herself a Prince of a Saw Doctor who "used ta love
her" singing on the "N17". Joanne and her Saw Doctor got married and lived
happily ever after in the Kingdom of Tuam.
Other principals in 1991 included Dave Tuomey as Simple Simon, with Lar Davis
as yes you guessed it, the Pie Man and Michael Devanney who played Demon
Pestblight with his usual flair for being the bad guy in the finest of costumes
which he created himself. There was never an end to Michael's talents!
In 1992 we saw Tony Hiney leave his role as Daisy the Cow behind him as he
and Marina Rice "moooved" into the roles of producers of "Sleeping Beauty". The
title role of "Sleeping Beauty" was played by Orla Healy who proved that having
a doctor in the house was a great cure for any thirteen-year-old, who was
juggling school with a principal role in Pantomime.
It was commented by many a Damsel in the Chorus of "Sleeping Beauty", that
Brian Murphy as the King of Palladia (also known as Rathbawn), possessed the
finest pair of legs ever seen to grace a doublet and tights. Ann Melvin followed
her dreams to appear on stage and in only her second year of panto secured the
role of Tilly the Royal Nurse. Another brave soul to leave the security of the
chorus was Pat Jennings as The Herald. Little did Pat consider in 1992, that he
would progress from treading the boards of the Town Hall, to having world class
acts tread the boards of his very own Royal Theatre.
Two panto veterans took on the roles of An Old Villager and A Very Ancient
Villager. Nothing unusual about that, but only in panto land could Stephen
Guthrie and Lar Davis carry off the roles of 700-year-old villager and his
youngster son of only 500 years. Darina Molloy carried on a panto tradition
started by her uncle Mat Armstrong in the Panto's of the 50's and 60's and threw
herself into her first principal role as the Dame. Darina as Mother Broome fends
off the jealous Royal Nurse to secure herself The Lord Chamberlain himself, Mr.
Michael Devanney. Mary McHale and Clare Kenny played the bungling guards Pip and
Pop with Emer Gillard and Louise Cresham as their adoring girlfriends Lola and
Lila. An Oscar winning performance by Emer and Louise considering the material
they had to fall in love with!
The start of the second half brought a whole other fairy tale to the stage in
the guise of a political review of the year by Messer’s Frank Forde and Ger
Leonard. Messer’s by title and messers by nature, so here is the gist of the
real fairy tale.
Fairy Nettle played by Kathryn Fitzmaurice from the Kingdom of Ballinrobe,
cast an evil spell on the palace. But, the day is saved by the Fairy Queen
played by Deirdre Rice from the Kingdom of Swinford. The Fairy Queen and her
fairy crew change events by amending the spell from a Royal death wish, to a
Princess destined to sleep for a 100 years. Princess Marigold could only be
awoken by a kiss from a handsome Prince. Cue, Eugene Flynn to arrive as Prince
Harry of Boholia and they all lived happily ever after until next years
The best wine is always left till last and it was in 1992 that the sad news
of the death of Tony Donegan reached Castlebar. Tony had been involved with
Castlebar Pantomime both on stage and back stage up to 1992. Tony was someone
who would always do his best in what ever he was involved with and would never
expect anything in return. He was happy in the knowledge of a job well done and
maybe he might get some laughs out of doing it. Tony Donegan was a rare
character and true loss to all around him.
The 1993 panto saw Michael Rice appear in the title role of "Mother Goose"
under the direction of Ms Marina Rice. Panto is just one big family but the
Rice's appeared en masse that year - with Pauline Rice, Aoife Rice and Aishling
Rice also getting involved really made it a family affair. Not only did Marina
Rice produce "Mother Goose" but somehow she found time to write in two extra
characters of Norma Jean, The Fairy Queen and The Demon Reprobate.
|1993 - Some of the cast of Mother Goose.|
Ann Melvin’s performance as Norma Jean was effortless, as Ann appeared to
have been born to play this larger than life character based on Marilyn Monroe.
It is retold in the Book of Panto that it was with great reluctance that Mrs.
Melvin returned that scarlet dress. Counselling sessions in Cody’s après
panto did seem to ease her loss however. Stephen Guthrie's costume as the
Demon Reprobate appeared to be a copy of an escaped Royalist from the English
Civil war, but our Stephen never looked so good. It probably would not have
helped vegetable sales down in Cannon's, but rarely have the forces of good and
evil shone so brightly in scarlet as Ann and Stephen did in 1993.
Gertie the Goose was played, silently but effectively by Catherine Denning
who followed the panto tradition started by her famous Aunts Nan Monaghan,
Angela Casey and Irene Smith in the 1960s. Garry Wynne appeared as her Father
the King Goose of Geese-ala who carelessly lost her to the evil Jasper Jason
played by Michael Devanney. Garry is another person to have inherited Pantomime
fever as in the 1950s another Wynne Uncle Gussie, graced the panto stage. Also
Garry's Mother, then Ita Whelan and his Uncle Eamon Whelan also appeared in
Castlebar Pantomimes in the 1960's with sister Deirdre appearing in "Sinbad and
To complete this Goose family portrait was one Karen Conway, as the Queen of
Geese-ala. Again there is a pantomime tradition running in the Conway household
with, Aunt Beatrice Conway appearing in Pintos during the 1950s, son Mark in
2004 "Beauty and The Beast", Sister Denise in 1987 "Cinderella" and her poor
Parents Parse and Kathleen have had to sit through every Pantomime since 1993 -
God bless them!
Family is always a large part of panto tradition with many families annually
attending. On stage, there are frequently many relatives shinning under the same
spotlight. Paddy Gannon for instance appeared in "Mother Goose" with his
daughters Lisa and Fiona Gannon, nephews Tommy Corley, Justin Guthrie, Jason
Guthrie and niece Caroline Guthrie. Other years saw Deirdre Guthrie and Elaine
Gannon also on stage with Robert Guthrie holding the fort in the Pantomime shop.
Indeed Jason Guthrie left the panto folks with gaping mouths in 1993. Jaws fell
to the floor as Jason displayed a much hidden talent, oh boy, could that dancer
sing! His recently revealed talent secured him the role of principal boy Jack
with Lorraine Cusack as Jill - a very "Creditable" performance from the pride of
Playing the roles of their lives, were Padraig Diskin and Lar Davis who stole
many a scene when they appeared as Cutie and Fruitie. Padraig did have a few
problems with his blond wig until Michael Devanney administered some
hairdresser’s magic to cure it but other than that took to his female role with
alarming ease. Lar Davis being the true professional he is, declined to stay in
his costume gown, as he perambulated into Coady's at half time just to see if
all was well with the world outside or to see if he could assist Sir Arthur
Guinness in any way.
All things being fair in Panto, if you had two guys dressed as women, then
naturally you had to have two gals as guys! 1993 saw Darina Molloy and Kathryn
Fitzmaurice play Baron Jasper Jason’s henchmen Debit and Credit. This trio was
responsible for evicting Mother Goose and her son Simple Simon played by Ann
Timothy out of their house and off onto their tale of woe. This tale took them
to Scotland and Holland with many wonderful chorus numbers to keep them company.
Adrian Gavin was notable in this panto with his version of the "Dutchman" and
although it seems unlikely to put this in the same sentence, the juniors’
rendition of the Frog Chorus was absolutely the sweetest thing to witness in
"Mother Goose" that year. The "Black Hills of Dakota" is on the other hand a
number, which the chorus have no desire to remember - definitely NOT a panto
Politics creep in every where and when Jimmy Murphy was not playing a Garda
evicting poor Mother Goose, he doubled up on roles and played Pilib O'Ceallaigh
T.D. But, for once it was not only the local politicians like Eamon Joyce,
Padraig Flynn and Enda Kenny who were ribbed from the stage. Bishop Michael
Neary and Fr. Gerry Needham arrived for the Friday show to be met with the
traditional panto jokes from the stage at their expense. Both men of the cloth
however, took it all in their stride as they sat back and continued to enjoy the
rest of the show. Other victims picked from the audience that year were Paul
Heverin, Tony Grimes, Mick Byrne, Michael Parsons, Josephine McCann and Ernie
Sweeney, all in the spirit of jest of course!
Nan Monaghan uncovered the script for the 1993 show "Babes in the Wood". This
script was unique in the fact that it was the same script that she had used in
1964 production of "Babes in the Wood" while playing the part of Robin Hood.
Nan's daughter Michelle Monaghan played the role of Maid Marion, which her Aunt
Angela Casey had played before her. Pantomime new comer Richard Heneghan played
Robin Hood; with his and Michelle’s version of "True Love" becoming a panto
classic by the end of the week.
Also, by the end of the week, another classic was born. In 1993 Frank Forde
played the role of Dame Martha to the point where his antics that year has
become legendary. A certain scene which contained Mr. Forde using a metal bucket
on stage as a replacement for a bedpan had to be both seen and heard to be
believed. His interpretation of "Dear Frankie" almost required oxygen masks to
be handed out to the audience who could not breathe from laughing. But the
crème de la crème was during the Friday night show when Monsieur Paul
Claffey (he of Mid-West Radio) appeared with Frank in a cameo role as The
Matron. Any remaining caution was thrown to the wind as Frank dressed in a pink
nightie was reprimanded by Paul Claffey in a matron’s uniform in a completely
unscripted and believe me, an unrehearsed scene. Photos of this scene will be
appear on the Castlebar Pantomime Website for the unbelievers.
No "Babes in the Wood" production would be complete with "The Babes" who were
played by Charlie Davis and Katrina Roughneen. Young as he was, Charlie Davis
was no stranger to the panto scene being the son of the famous actor Lawrence J.
Davis. While Katrina Roughneen had moved through the ranks of the junior chorus
to win her first principal role as Jill.
The Babes spent most of the show dodging the Sheriff of Nottingham played by
Michael Devanney who managed to squash in some acting between painting sets,
creating costumes, performing coiffure miracles and transforming Darina Molloy
from your friendly local reporter into the evil Witch Sly-Eye. Michael’s talent
with make up was outstanding and the children in the audience were terrified of
the vampire-ish looks of Witch Sly-Eye. She was absolutely detested by the young
audience, a true tribute to Michael’s costume and make up genius combined with
Darina's flawless acting style.
Of course in pantomime, wherever there are bad witches there also has to be a
good fairy. This role was given to Anne Kerrigan as Fairy Goodheart who in
theory, was supposed to magically arrive on stage within a series of rotating
mirrors which it was hoped would confuse the audience as to where she had
arrived. In practice, however, this did not always work. The audience was often
left with a view of the petite Anne pushing the large mirrors away from her,
while the twinkly fairy music was overshadowed by Des Byrne in a Dublin accent
colourfully commenting on the fact, that there was an error in the
The chorus had a ball that year and all thoroughly enjoyed the choice of
songs and dance routines. Certain members of the audience also enjoyed the
chorus when the senior chorus dressed as French Maids appeared with Liam Connell
as the Butler, in the "Hurry Up" number. Sharon Lavelle was enjoying her first
year in Pantomime until she found herself to be the only dancer on stage when
the rest of the chorus misjudged the length of a chocolate break. Sharon hid
behind Garry Wynne who played Friar Tuck and waited while the chocolate culprits
sneaked onto the stage hoping that no one noticed their absence!
Garry, totally thrown by the change in proceedings, mixed up the words of "In
the Middle of the Night" leaving the tightly choreographed dancers hands high in
the air for "River Deep" and the dancers hands down on the ground for "Mountain
High". Ah well, did anyone except for the chorus really notice the error - I
The long time achievement award for the most costume changes in any
pantomime, goes to Ms Donna Ruane and Ms Karen Conway. In 1993 they had the
troublesome task of changing in and out of six different costumes within one
show, with one or two repeats I might add. Tweed jackets were borrowed from Nat
Ruane, Bacon Factory coats were borrowed from Pearse Conway, scarecrow outfits,
robbers’ attire, 1920s swim suits and Russian costumes were drafted in from
Limerick to keep the girls busy as The Sheriff of Nottingham’s henchmen, Smash
During the show Donna Ruane as Smash was supposed to be pushed gently on
stage from the wings in a shopping trolley to stand and deliver her lines before
scrambling out for the rest of scene. A certain individual playing Grabbe could
not resist the temptation on the last night to push poor Smash out into the
stage with such force that the audience were but a flash of faces to Donna as
she careered onto the far side of the Town hall stage. The only thing that
stopped her from heading out to Coady's were the back stage crew as they held
each other up while laughing at the shock in her face. Back then you could do
those kinds of things and the amazing thing is that no one was hurt - they just
got you back!
Castlebar Pantomime celebrate its 10th Anniversary in 1995 with a production
of "Cinderella and The Three Bears". To mark this amateur group’s achievement a
commemorative program was launched in Coady's Friendly Tavern in Linen Hall
Street compiled by Emer Mullins, Nan Monaghan, P.J. Mullins, Franke Forde and
Marina Rice. To start each show in 1995, members of the junior chorus were
dressed up as miniature versions of the previous 10 pantomimes main characters
to symbolise the shows of the past 10 years.
|1995 Goldilocks - L-R Brenda Walsh, Michael Devanney, Lar Davis & Marina Rice.|
"Goldilocks" was without question the most colourful of any Castlebar
Pantomime. The backdrops were outstanding and appeared life like from a distance
courtesy of the talents of Michael Devanney, Alice Rodgers, Fiona Martin, Sinead
Martin and Mary Reilly. Clown costumes, fairy costumes, woodland animals, circus
performers, gypsies, a vampire and of course the Three Bears created a magical
vision upon the Town Hall Stage. These costumes were either hired or created by
Patsy Gaughan, Maureen Vahy, Wendy Cotter, Ann Nally, Sharon Lavelle, Fiona
Kilbane and Delia O'Grady.
No detail was overlooked no matter how small while Fiona Kilbane produced
this show. She was ably assisted by Ann Kerrigan as Choral Director, who also
appeared as Fairy Gossamer, and Choreographers Jason Guthrie and Monica
Masterson. Marina Rice who also appeared as The Fairy Queen was Stage Manageress
who orchestrated miracles with the help of Mick Monaghan, Tom Jennings, Philip
Lydon, Brian Lydon, Tom McGrath, Eugene Flynn, Gerry Duffy and Noel Lester.
Lighting and sound effects were in the hands of Dave Murphy, Aideen Christie,
Kevin Heraty, Terry Coleman and Frankie McDonald.
Michael Devanney, Ann Cresham and Orla Reilly nightly transformed many an
ordinary face into an extraordinary character with their magical make up skills.
Sadly someone who annually contributed to many a colour full face on stage had
passed away shortly before "Goldilocks" was preformed. Madeline Gallagher who
had been involved in many a Town Hall stage production in the 1960s and who was
with Castlebar Pantomime in different roles since 1986, was sorely missed by
those she had left behind as she went to enjoy a different chorus on a faraway
Other contributors to the smooth running of "Goldilocks" were prompters Clare
Kenny and Carmel Dooley, door and box office co-ordinator Pat Tierney, M.C.
Stephen Burns and the every versatile Robert Guthrie who juggled managing the
panto shop, with the taming of the very pernickety red Town Hall stage
The toughest roles that year were played by the Three Bears themselves. The
heat of the lights and the weight of the costumes not to mention their
awkwardness at certain crucial times during the night meant that Walter Donoghue
as Daddy Bear, Mary McHale as Mammy Bear and Rachel Tuomey as Baby Bear truly
earned their applause every night. The hero of the day was Sean Mulroy who
stepped in at the 11th and a half-hour to play Willy Clott. Sean proved his
worth as the talent he is, by repeating the script on the first performance,
word perfect and without ever rehearsing it! Mind you if the cast had to hear
him screech "But, but Mammy" one more time he would not have lasted a second
week of the show. His interpretation of Free Willy as he nightly (and
unscripted) released a mock fish from his possession onto the stage brought the
The most glamorous Dame of any Castlebar Pantomime before or since was played
by the seemingly harmless Mayo General medical scientist, Mr. Liam Connell. Oh!
but put that man in a well fitting dress, complete with the best legs in the
business and our Liam was unstoppable as Dame Priscilla Clott. Dame Priscilla
saved the Three Bears from the evil clutches of Baron Heinrich Muchausen played
by Michael Devanney (for such a sound fella, he always played the bad guy) and
his bungling henchmen Ali and Oop complete with very convincing Indian accents
(well they thought they had) played by that dynamic duo Donna Ruane and Karen
Conway. So anyway, off the Three Bears went back into the woods where Goldilocks
played by Debbie Lester basically broke into their house, stole their food and
had the cheek to take up squatters rights in their most comfortable bed.
This is where the traditional story severely branches off. Enter Count
Dracula played rather convincingly by Garry Wynne who fancies Goldilocks as the
next Mrs. Dracula and teams up with the evil Baron (yes him again) to lure
Goldilocks into his bat cave. Apparently Goldie's heart belonged to Robin
Makepeace played by Jason Guthrie, who with the help of the Forrest Fairy played
by Brenda Walsh flooded the vampire's cave with day light and God knows at the
time Garry was more at home in the middle of the night, destroyed the vampire
and saved the day. Well at least, until the Pantomime Committee came up with
another script and another crazy set of events the following year.
If any further material is available regarding the panto years from 1951 to
2004 please forward to Sharon Lavelle at Flannelly Insurance’s, Market Square,
Castlebar. Or, contact her at 094) 9023193. All documents will be copied and
safely returned as a history of Castlebar Pantomime is currently being complied
in a website forma – check out www.castlebarpantomime.com. Alternatively you can
email material to email@example.com. The
assistance of the public, former Pantomime members or their families would be
most appreciated in recording this unique local tradition.
Panto Programmes: The 2005 25th Anniversary Panto Programme
which includes a comprehensive history of Castlebar Pantomime from 1951 to 2005,
is available from Wynne's Newsagents, Main Street, Castlebar at €4.
Pantomime History Part 1 1951-1965
Pantomime History Part 2 1986-1990