FOR more than 70 years performers of all ages have taken to the stage for the annual Malton pantomime.

This year is only the second time since 1949 Malton and Norton Musical Theatre ( MNMT) has not performed a panto at the Milton Rooms - the first is believed to due to severe winter weather in the mid-sixties.

However, Malton panto has weathered many a storm in a colourful history and it will weather this one too.

With plans well underway for the 2022 pantomime, some of those associated with the production recall their memories of treading the board in Malton.

For Scott Garnham, now a professional theatre and TV actor, pantomime was his first experience of theatre.

He said: “I feel incredibly lucky that such an amazing community space was located in the heart of our town and also the huge importance MNMT placed on their annual pantomime.

“My first role was Baby Bear in Goldilocks and the Three Bears and I did pretty much every show afterwards often playing the comedy character or as a double act with the brilliant Ian Goring.”

Scott added: “I learnt a lot about theatre from the adults I was fortunate enough to work with and genuinely feel that without the experience I gained whilst rehearsing and performing in those shows I wouldn’t have had the professional career I have had. I look forward to seeing many more pantomimes at the Milton Rooms over the years to come and hope that MNMT continue to inspire young people the way they inspired me many years ago.”

Angela Kirkham, of Kirkham Henry Performing Arts Centre, said that little did she know that when she moved to Malton at the age of 14 that she would be associated with MNMT for nearly 50 years.

She said: “After a year or so I started to choreograph both for MNNT and Pickering Musical Society always volunteering my time. To be honest looking back I don’t know how I managed to choreograph so many children in so many dances plus choreograph the chorus.

“Gradually I stopped choreographing altogether and handed the task to Kirkham Henry teachers but as the centre had such a connection to the society I have always been involved somehow.

“This year will be the first year in my 49 years involvement that our pupils will not be taking part.”

Angela added: “The great memories of working with the likes of John Coates and Fred Bower to name a couple will remain with me forever. I have so many funny stories too many to mention.”

Margaret Lukey, a longstanding member and performer, said she had wonderful memories of her time in pantomime.

“Usually the ‘baddie’, my favourite role was SloMo, a Chinese robot, in Sinbad. The legendry Fred Bower was Dame, with Jackie Coates making the most of the comedy.

“As they ‘ate’ hot fish and chips on the raft I struggled to continue the dialogue. Wonderful!”

A particular guiding light for many of the musical theatre’s long-running stars was John Coates who passed away in 2017. He nurtured many young local stage performers including Scott Garnham, Laurie Scarth and Lauren Hood, all who went on to have successful professional careers.

He directed 24 pantos for the group between the 1970s and 2003 before giving up his active association because of Parkinson’s disease. As well as being a skilled musical show and panto director, John was a fine actor and singer, regularly playing lead roles in society musical shows.

MNMT spokesman Mark Boler said that with so many inspiring people behind Malton’s pantos, it had been a real disappointment that they had not been able to produce a pantomime this year for the local community.

“Fortunately, the society will be able to survive a year without any income and look forward to welcoming back our wonderful team of performers, the Kirkham Henry Dancers and all the numerous helpers and supporters who do so much work behind the scenes to produce the show.

“Next January we promise our audience a spectacular production of the most classic pantomime of all time, Cinderella.”

Mark added: “The society really needs the community to come along and support this long-standing traditional pantomime with healthy ticket sales to enable MNMT to continue with many more productions in the future.”

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