A group of amateur dramatic people were asked by Dorothy Hatswell to put on a pantomime at the newly built Haven Centre in January 1989. This was the start of The Haven Theatre Company (HTC). The first pantomime was Jack and the Beanstalk using a script adapted by Nick Watson (Sackville Players). Those involved in setting up this pantomime were names you may recognise - Frances Lancaster, Tom Lancaster (backstage) John Dixon (backstage) Sandi Goman (costumes). The auditions were held and rehearsals began for the first ever pantomime at the Haven Centre, Crawley Down. Many local people took part (including myself as the Vegetable Fairy – I was a lot younger then!). Many of the cast also had teenage children in the chorus and amazingly we now have the grandchildren of the original cast playing major roles in the 2018 pantomime.
At that time we only had a stage. No curtains, backdrops, scenery, costumes, lights and sound equipment. Everything had to be hired in. Gradually over the years we have been fundraising and bought second hand equipment and then brand new. It is a great sense of achievement to be able to hang brand new curtains up on the stage and see lights and good sound coming from our equipment. We still apply for grants to update our lights and microphones to give the best we can to our audience (we were awarded £400 last year from Crawley Down Village website). We have hundreds of costumes that I have made over the years with the help of Eileen Hill, Sue Nye and Teresa Carlile to name a few.
In the past we have also put on Murder Mystery evenings and Musicals such as Let’s go to the Movies and Let’s go to the Musicals, Dracula Spectacular, Sweeney Todd (which we took to Chequer Mead) and On the Razzle (which we took to the Hawth). We hope to carry on next year with more productions.
This January 2018 just gone, we staged Peter Pan as a pantomime written by Richie Fenwick who has been a member of our company for many years and comes from a family who also are known on our stage (Giselle, Chris and Rod (backstage)). It was directed by Elliot McGuffie who has been a Policeman and more recently Buttons in past shows. Musical Director was Aaron Hale who also has a family of backstage helpers and has played in our Band as well as graced us with his wit on stage. Choreographer was Emily Hugget. They were a young crew but those who saw Peter Pan will know how talented they were in bringing the very best out of their cast.
We are lucky enough to have a lot of youngsters in our membership. To keep within the West Sussex guidelines of children entertaining we have many trained chaperones and the use of the Crawley Down Football Club changing rooms when performances are on.
2019 marks our 30th Anniversary and it would be great to get together any of the original cast of Jack and the Beanstalk and see them on the stage at the Haven Centre once again.
Linda Dixon (was Kent)