Pantomime is one of the best things about the Christmas season; perhaps the most entertaining genre of theatre. Bath Univeristy Student Theatre (BUST) always puts on a fantastic panto at the end of Semester 1 however this year’s is particularly special as it was actually written by one of their own, the extremely accomplished thespian Sam Lamont, Director and Writer of BUST’s Christmas Panto, ‘Dick: The Whittington Story’
I caught up with him at the West Gate to find out a bit more about what Student Theatre is all about, how to get involved, and what challenges it faces from the SU.
The reason for writing the script is simple enough; “I like panto.” He goes on to explain that, although it is not the highest form of theatre, this actually gives the writer more freedom to play “fast and loose” with the characters offering more poetic license. He script his loosely based of the story of Dick Wittington although he does admit that he has not actually seen Dick Whittington since he was ten!
Our conversation moves towards what is a thorny subject in Bath creative circles; who should be running the Edge? Although vast improvements have been made since last year Lamont still feels the Edge theatre could be run better with students in charge. In the past, the private owners have been known to overturn student bookings for private contracts which, to me, seems ridiculous. Although it should be stressed that in the case of Dick specifically the Edge and the staff who work there posed no issue.
The Edge was not the only institutions that had to be overcome to produce the play. The Student’s Union, although doing amazing work to facilitate what societies can achieve, might actually be inhibiting BUST from reaching their full potential. Lamont suggests that the inability to ‘roll-over’ society funds from the previous year prevents BUST from putting on big shows as they simply will never have the money to produce a big show through their yearly budget. Lamont also echoes what a growing body of students are thinking arguing that the SU Societies Office is currently understaffed meaning that publicity for Dick was delayed whilst waiting for ‘sign-off.’ Lamont argued that if they cannot get the additional staff then the SU should “step-off” societies and give them more autonomy. The SU are investing in a new staff member so hopefully this issue is already being addressed.it is worth noting that Lamont stressed his respect for the staff who work so tirelessly in the Students Union.
As we finish our drinks the conversation moves to what advice he would give to budding thesps; “Throw yourself in” is the key message. BUST offer workshops to develop theatrical skills and the society’s friendly and approachable culture make it a fantastic place to get involved in amateur theatre, especially for a beginner. Lamont himself as gone further than this finding opportunities for productions at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and was recently awarded a scholarship for his acting skill.
You can get your fill of Dick this Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Arts Theater for only £5 (https://www.facebook.com/events/574844549367526/) Tickets will be sold on the door too. The panto will be a barrel of laughs and is definitely not one to miss!