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Hastings Ore Women’s Institute at the Crazy Golf course for their annual tournament

Waiting for . . Panto

What better time to hold a press launch for a Christmas pantomime than on one of the hottest days of the year? And where better to do it than a Crazy Golf course? Toby Sargent has organised a few hundred press conferences, media receptions and photo-calls in his time, and he likes a good panto (Oh no he doesn’t – Ed), so he went along to see what was going on by the seafront.

The press release was unambiguous: ‘We are excited to announce that our official Pantomime launch will be on Monday 12th September (at) 11:30am. We will be holding a photoshoot at the Adventure Golf along Hastings seafront (if the weather is dry) and in Smugglers Adventure (if we are incredibly unlucky with the weather!). You are invited to attend the photoshoot and take your own pictures but please RSVP so we can expect to see you there.’

Fair enough. Date, time and venue clearly set out. Unnecessary use of the exclamation mark, yes, but I’ve seen worse. I arrived a few minutes early and splashed out on hour’s worth of parking: £1.50 if you please – that’s 30 shillings in old money, and nearly enough to buy the Beatles first LP back in the day. But there we are.


Hacked-off hack? The Observer’s photographer, Justin Lee, took it all in good part. He was used to hanging around.

There were a couple of chaps already waiting, as it turned out: a snapper and a scribbler (as we used to know them) from the Observer. And there we were with the sun beating down waiting for the main attraction which, according to the press invitation, was that ‘we can confirm that the following cast will be in attendance: Jaymi Hensley (Peter Pan), Sean Chambers (Captain Hook) and Nina Bell (Wendy).’

Well, I guess there must have been some delays and cancellations on the journey from Neverland because by 11.45 there was neither hide, nor hair nor hook of any of them.

We telephoned the press officer. “Very tight schedule – we’ll be on our way in a second,” he promised.

“Very tight costumes more like,” someone quips.

By now the Crazy Golf was getting pretty busy, and we had ample time to observe the different approaches people take to that estimable seaside pastime. One young couple seemed to regard it all as a bit of a chore. The woman played listless shots, hoping to get on to something else perhaps, while her partner (red polo, navy shorts, dark socks and sandals, burns-unit suntan – you get the picture) maintained a constant mobile phone conversation across the first three holes while playing one-handed.

Totem poles that squirt water

Another chap went through the singularly pointless rigmarole of practising each shot before taking it, like they do at Augusta or St Andrew’s. But this is Crazy Golf, my friend – the clue’s in the name. Windmills, aluminium helter-skelters, totem poles that squirt water at you as you play.


The WI take their Crazy Golf seriously

Things look up when the Hastings Ore Women’s Institute turn up for their annual golf tournament. There must be a dozen of them, all laughing and joking, and having a terrific time in the sunshine. Excellent players too with holes-in-one aplenty as they make their merry way round. Among them, by the way, is lovely Stephanie Gaunt who blogs under the name Hastings Battleaxe and has been a HOT contributor in the past.

A couple of minutes before 12.00 and there’s still no sign. Apparently it’s usually like this when it comes to promoting the forthcoming Panto season. Certainly the guys from the Observer displayed Zen-like patience and sang-froid. Perhaps the stars just aren’t in the Christmas mood.

Unaffected loathing

My colleagues mention showbiz stars from productions of years gone by. One was an hour late and made it very clear to the assembled press that he/she didn’t want to be there, and had an unaffected loathing of the whole proceedings. Another looked as if he/she was auditioning for the role of Mr/Mrs Sweary, apparently. Others of course were polite, charming and utterly professional. Pantomime is a uniquely English tradition, I think, and its players clearly come in a uniquely English mixture of temperaments.


The Peter Pan press release. Slightly crumpled: Lucy the dog got it as it came out of the printer

By now it’s ten past midday and there’s nothing doing other than a forlorn message that there’s complimentary tea and coffee for us in the snack bar, if we want it. We don’t.

Me, I’m fretting that my parking ticket has just ten minutes to run. I scan the horizon but there’s no sign of Hook, Pan or little Wendy – not even the ticking of that crocodile.

Ben Watson – local hero

Apparently Ben Watson, who is not the former Crystal Palace midfielder but rather, an accomplished actor and comedian who plays Smee, and isn’t due to attend today’s non-event, is something of a local hero, and a regular performer at the White Rock panto. I reckon if he’d been around it would all have been ok.

But it’s 12.20 and I’ve got to dash. Did the cast show up for the picture? Better check the Observer to find out at the end of the week. This, of course, is no criticism of the White Rock Theatre and its team who did their best. It’s just that sometimes the ‘talent’ can be capricious, and heaven knows I’ve had plenty of experience of that.

Peter Pan is at The White Rock Theatre, Friday 16 December to Saturday 31 December. Further information can be found online.

Posted 19:24 Monday, Sep 12, 2016 In: Performance

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