It All Started At
The Kings Head!
I'm Keith Watts and every year, I have the pleasure of directing the Syresham village panto.
It's been that way since 1997. I blame a summer's evening in The Kings Head for changing my life, every year from May until February.
It was towards the end of a pleasurable evening of drinking, involving several pints of ale, when someone suggested that it's about time Syresham put on a pantomime in the village hall. It was suggested that because I'm a television cameraman, I should sort it out ... which is a bit like saying the local butcher could do a spot of brain surgery because he cuts up meat! Why me? I knew nothing about pantos!
Anyway ... I said "yes".
We Need Two
I formed Take Your S.E.A.T. in 1997, (that stands for Syresham Entertainment And Theatre … and NOT a Spanish car) with a grand total membership of ONE ... me! I took the decision to put on Cinderella ... a safe bet and bought a script and re-wrote it … more Syresham.
A few mates promised me they would help and 'have a go'. This was probably due to 'beer talk', because as soon as I mentioned we needed two people to dress up as women, I ended up with no cast ... as my mates were suddenly busy???
I needed a trusty right hand man. I was told that the local butcher in the village was a bit of a card and liked to prance around singing songs to anyone who would listen. His name? Dave Gee! Dave has been with me ever since and despite a few hissy, handbag arguments over the years, we were a great team! Dave is the only person to appear in every panto we have produced … bar one when he was ill.
Cinderella '98 was a great success, packing out the village hall for three shows ... performing on a stage of hardboard screwed onto a bed of milk crates. It was about 9 inches high! I don't think the audience at the back saw much! I was very proud of that first show and it inspired me to carry on ...
I used my experience from my many years working in television, to install some professionalism into the company and we now put on shows that rival big towns with proper theatre facilities. We certainly have moved on since the milk crates!
Today ... Take Your S.E.A.T. is a fully constitutional theatre company with the same values I initiated from the start. Number 1 rule ... NO VILLAGE POLITICS! ... Number 2 rule ... NO 'CLIQUEY GROUPS'!
I'm Proud of TYS!
Alas, the Dave/Keith duo has now given way to more of a team effort. We have costume, set design, lighting, props, sound, and choreography departments, each with it’s own person in charge. This system is far more efficient and best of all .... takes the pressure off me and Dave. Our Chairman, Mike "It's not that bad dressing as a girl" Maund and resident Dame, keeps us all in order with an iron rod ... he's hard underneath that girdle!
Syresham has an extraordinary number of talented people! Without them, we could never put on such professional shows. Since 1998, the village has fully supported us from the start ... either by acting or working backstage (over 500 people involved, ranging in age from 5 - 70 years old) or watching (over 5000 people have seen all the shows).
We now start from scratch, in an empty village hall and magically transform it into a full theatre, with a large stage including a proscenium arch and professional lighting and sound. Then proceed to put on a brilliant, funny panto, that is rehearsed for 5 months, twice a week.
We now have built up a fine reputation. We regularly fill our seats for 5 shows, not just with local people ... but many come from all parts of the country ... and on odd occasions, even from abroad!
... I am very proud of Take Your S.E.A.T.