Topsham pantomime revival

TOPSHAM Community Association will allow a pantomime to be held at Matthews Hall this December – just months after a dispute erupted over the event being held at the venue.

A pantomime which has a history of being staged at the venue for 40 years, organised and performed by members of the Topsham Amateur Dramatic Society, was cancelled prior to last Christmas.

Members of the society claimed a fallout with the hall’s management committee resulted in the decision.

Marlene Gardner, from TADS, said the dispute developed after the committee insisted the set and scenery for last year’s show, Red Riding Hood, be taken down after the Friday performance.

This was so the hall could be kept clear for Saturday morning market traders.

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But, at a recent Topsham Community Association meeting, the committee approved dates for a week of performances around Christmas of this year.

Marlene said: “They have magnanimously said that we can hold the event there again starting around December 3 – that will definitely go ahead.

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“Reading between the lines, I think the management committee have had a bit of an ear-bashing about the issue.

“There were so many people who were disappointed about it being cancelled, especially the children.

“The market traders have got to realise it is a community hall.”

Journal reader Robert Hatch, from Exmouth, was delighted with the news to reinstate the event.

He said: “Lets hope the pantomime is allowed to resume its rightful place in the Topsham calendar as an annual event without fuss or hiccups.”

Matthews Hall was built many years ago for the people of Topsham by a local family.

Part of the panto tradition has always been a Saturday matinee which has been necessary to make the show financially viable.

Marlene, who has helped run TADS since 1969, said the event had a positive on the children who took part.

She added: “They help them in building their confidence and stage-presence abilities.

“Every year that we arrange the pantomime it costs such much in terms of the time invested in its preparation and money ploughed into it.”

Maggie Butt, from Topsham Community Association, confirmed the group had allowed TADS to use Matthews Hall in December.

But, she added: “What we have said is that we can’t yet say whether we will be able to accommodate them in 2012 and 2013.

“We have to wait and see what the effect will be on all concerned this year with the arrangements especially the market traders.”

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