Final preparations are under way for the Monday Night Group’s 50th pantomime at the Civic Hall, Stourport on 22nd-30th January. The group has gone from strength to strength over its half century of shows, becoming a registered charity in 1981 and giving away over £400,000 to local community groups and organisations. Jo Rush plays Baroness Hangover: “The show is great fun and being on stage is always great but knowing we’re raising money for local groups makes it so worthwhile.”
The Monday Night Group started at The New Meeting Hall in Kidderminster then had a brief stint at the Rose Theatre before taking residence at The Civic Hall in Stourport in 1975.
Margaret Gould (formerly Margaret Derham) was 3 when she first appeared on stage as a ballet dancer. As an adult she started out with Stourport Three Arts Guild in The Boyfriend along with Alan Green and Pat Powell. Over a fish and chip supper one Monday evening with other like-minded friends the idea of producing and performing an amateur pantomime was discussed with proceeds going to local charity. From this idea the Monday Night Group was formed. In early1967 Margaret played the part of Cinderella, the Group’s first pantomime, which was performed for 2 nights at New Meeting Hall. In 1973 she reprised her role as Cinderella having taken several other parts in between and afterwards including those of different characters, Alice in Dick Whittington, Maid Marion in Babes in The Wood, The Princess in Aladdin and many more as well as choreographing several of the shows.
39 years after Cinderella’s debut with the Monday Night Group a 12 year old Sophie Carrier took to the stage for the first time outside of school as a footman and glamorous assistant in the same pantomime. This year, for the 50th production, Sophie takes on the title role of Cinderella, at the age of 22, the same age as Margaret was when she first took the role.
The stage has changed, technology advanced (Margaret recalls an occasion when their live solo pianist disappeared for a panic-inducing moment!) and the team, on and off stage, increased in size since the early days.
Group chairman (and Ugly Sister) Sam Maher said: “The whole team have, as always, worked tirelessly to put on a fantastic, traditional pantomime suitable for the whole family. We’re a fun group catering for a wide range of ages and abilities and always welcome new members. Each year, as well as having fun and entertaining the audience, it’s about raising as much money as we can to support the local groups and organisations who are always so appreciative of our efforts.”
Whilst some things have inevitably evolved since the early days of the group, some things remain as classics and true to the genre of pantomime, Cinderella is still graceful though downtrodden, the prince still charming, Buttons still endearing and the Ugly Sisters still, well, entertaining!
Cinderella runs at the Civic Hall, Stourport-on-Severn from 22nd – 30th January 2016 at various times, including matinees and early evening performances, see www.mondaynightgroup.org for more information.