Life after university can be strange and daunting especially for creatives who want to break into their industry. 2021 English Literature and Creative Writing graduate Will Burns was able to do just this to great success, penning his latest pantomime – Peter Frying Pan. Paired with the talented and ‘charming’ director Sarah Bishop, they put on a fantastical night. Burns and Bishop also sat down with aAh! Magazine to discuss their process, their community and what to do with your degree when university… is behind you!
Housed in the beautiful Guiseley Theatre, there was an instant sense of harmony, a theme prevalent on and off stage, as the show surely became the talk of the town. The queue spanned across the building, filled with excited families dressed up in costume and warming their vocal chords, all ready to boo, laugh and sing.
The production felt like a love letter to Guiseley with references and jokes, that granted went over my London head, and a vivacious atmosphere. The fun reiteration of the classic story had been through a lot. Being conceived in 2019, it survived a pandemic, two final years of university and other obstacles but Bishop and Burns evident passion for theatre became the guiding light, rewarding them to have a sell out run to great acclaim. Bishop stated that no what happened she told herself “the show must go on”.
Curtain up, light the lights and everyone was in for a camp treat. Sarah Beattie as Fairy Liquid played our ethereal narrator, transporting Peter Frying Pan, to give his full government name, Wendy and the audience to Never-Ever Land (Ellie Bartle and Martha Brice respectively); an alternative reality where the island is in dire need of help as it slowly loses it’s magic.
Unlike Never-Ever Land, the show never lost its magic, only getting better as it progressed becoming almost hypnotising, a testament to its talented cast, a highlight on the principal leads, and enticing directing. Bishop added life to what could have been a standard retelling but it was fresh, fun and never stagnant utilising other worldly lighting, costuming and choreography.
The pantomime was soundtracked to the best of 80’s music which got everyone in a joyful sing-a-long, performed beautifully by Bartle and Beattie, and Brice blowing the roof off with a belter rendition of ‘Holding out for a Hero’.
A great pantomime is only as good as it’s villain and dame and I would be remiss without showcasing the captivating Captain Chuck and the downright hilarious Dame Tinkerfella. Jenny Pendriss as the evil pirate was grand and dazzling, and Phillip Smith adorned in full drag and multiple outfit changes was filled with innuendos for the mums and dads; with Smith putting in the extra effort to please the dads. Other characters who deserve praise was the powerhouse duo of Sneeze and Mustard, and Molly who stole every scene she was in, having something to do with her brilliant comedy timing and bright yellow jacket.
The actors did Will Burns’ impeccable book justice, with witty one-liners and humorous dialogue. Buns is a machine at writing, and was able to get his dissertation creative project piece ‘Butter Fingers’ to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe for 2022. He stated that the power your dissertation has can “take you to brilliant places”. He added: “Fringe had always been a dream of mine.” Just hearing this inspires me to put in some actual effort for my own final piece.
Overall, Peter Frying Pan was a playful night for all, with heart and an environment that hooked you in and never let you go, something Burns and Bishops should be very proud. We can expect to see more from them and By The Play, their theatre company, in the future. Such as Butter Fingers, more pantomimes and a completely musical, Somewhere, written by Bishop herself featuring 11 new songs from The Dunwells.
Bishop and Burns says that being a creative “will be hard work” especially coming out of the structures of university. But, when you put in the time, trust yourself and your potential, and finally see your work come to fruition “[you] can not be more proud.” Their biggest advice was “just go for it” as you don’t know if you don’t try and something can come from anything. Like a small idea for a communal pantomime two years ago can grow and manifest into a 4 night sell out run and be a catalyst for so much more.