Talking To Louis Hiatt From The Aberdyfi Players
This time of year, we would normally be excited to welcome guests ready for the annual outing to the village pantomime, coupled with excitement and anticipation as to what surprises the Aberdyfi Players would have in store for us.
As this has not been possible this year, we decided to have a chat with Louis Hiatt and find out what plans the Aberdyfi Players have up their sleeves for the coming year.
How do you all feel about missing this year’s pantomime performance?
We are all disappointed - our first in 28 years. But it was the right decision - myself, as the chairman, and all the committee wish everyone involved, and our audiences, good health until we return.
You all put so much effort and time into making such wonderful productions each year - what did you do with all your time off this year?
All in all, it takes around ten months from concept to final performance of each pantomime so it has been a long time doing nothing at all panto related. I have been home for the majority of the time due to Covid, working where I can (as I run a cleaning company) and providing fire cover as I am the Watch Manager of both Aberdyfi and Tywyn Fire Stations.
What have you missed most about not doing the pantomime this year?
I have missed seeing the hard work and how the panto evolves through rehearsals over the year. It's a strange and fun experience to read through a script and transform that character or scene into a real life production.
How long have you been involved in the pantomime?
I was in the very first production when the Aberdyfi Players reformed in 1994 and have played a number of roles through the early years. I re-joined the players in 2012, as a captain’s mate in Dick Whittington and have had a main part ever since. I became Aberdyfi Players’ Chairman in 2015 to present.
What do you enjoy most about being involved in the panto?
I enjoy the moulding of the pantomime from the initial script through production and rehearsals to getting the final product on the stage for a live audience. The most enjoyable part for me is the audience reaction and laughter.
What is your all-time favourite panto?
It's a difficult choice between two - Caesar The Panto and The Wizard Of Oz. Two shows you wouldn’t necessarily expect to be pantomime productions but we pulled them off with our own twist. I think the most stand-out would be Caeser because it was the first showing of that particular script anywhere in the world. We all loved the suspense of the audience reaction because they really didn’t know what they were turning up to see. Was it a panto or a history lesson?
What is your best memory from all your years of doing the panto?
I think it was Caesar the Panto. The first panto where we had a standing ovation at the end and I think a turning point - that show made today's panto what it is.
My very favourite part of all the pantomimes is, believe it or not, the half time raffle. I have a gift of being a very good ad-libber - making small quips like "Take the flowers, they are only just starting to wilt" or "Could you hurry up to collect your prize? We have a second half to do yet" It’s a brilliant way to maintain the show's momentum and to keep the audience engrossed in the action.
What’s the biggest blooper you can recall?
There are so many things that happen, it’s difficult to pinpoint one specific blooper. I think one which happened in rehearsal, but I kept it in for the shows, was when we were doing the final audience song. I picked up five blow-up lilos, ran onto the stage, tripped and did a full somersault, landing face down on them.
Who is the best character you have played?
The Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz is my favourite character. It was a brilliant costume all handmade, a brilliant script and a brilliant cast and we had a brilliant final audience song with myself, the Scarecrow and the Lion.
How does the local community get behind the village pantomime?
The local community is the backbone of the pantomime. Every trade you can think of - musicians, children, costume makers, stage builders... absolutely anyone can get involved and it reflects in ticket sales. Some 500-600 people live in Aberdyfi in the winter, and we manage to sell nearly 2,000 tickets over six shows each year which we think is an astounding achievement.
What plans are in the pipeline for next year’s panto? Can you tell us or give us a clue as to what next year’s production might be?
We have a few ideas in the cogs of production and, with a big 30 year celebration on the horizon, we are holding out for an all-singing, all-dancing spectacular. We have a reading group of six people who read a variety of scripts to put forward to the committee, so unfortunately I can’t give you any inkling of what the show may be or what direction it will go as yet - but keep an eye out as all announcements will be made on the Panto Aberdyfi Facebook page. I would like to thank all the supporters of the Aberdyfi Pantomime and best of wishes - we will see you on our stage again very soon. Oh yes we will...!
We are all waiting, with bated breath, as to what Louis and the team have in store for us with the next panto production. So if you have missed the Aberdfyi panto as much as us this year, why not book your stay ready for next year and make sure you don't miss out on what is always a spectacular production?
If you live in Aberdyfi or the surrounding area and would like to get involved with the panto, the Aberdyfi Players are always looking for volunteers on and off stage and welcome anyone to get in touch via their Facebook page.