Sunday, 15 September 2013

Out of the carnivals, into the pantomime!

Summer is over and carnival season has come to an end with it. Our Mexican Mayhem float scooped another collection of trophies in the last few of the season, leaving our mules tired but happy.

After the soaking we got at Sandown, we were understandably nervous about the forecast for Cowes Main. Mercifully, there wasn't a drop of rain in sight and we were awarded not only first prize but also a trophy for the most time and effort spent in construction. Well-deserved indeed, and a huge congratulations to Mike Squibb and the team behind the float.

A fortnight followed where we took a break from carnivals, working ourselves up to Ventnor Main on August 14th, the first night of the Ventnor Fringe Festival and one of the Island's best-supported carnivals. Nerves had kicked in, that was for sure, and we ran the routines over and over before the judges made their way over to us.

Best in Procession and Best Comedy Tableaux were the prizes picked up by our troupe in Ventnor, and a fantastic crowd meant adrenalin was high for hours after the carnival had finished.

Sadly, Ventnor Illuminated and Ryde Main clashed, both scheduled to happen on August 17th, at the end of the Ventnor Fringe Festival. With several of the mules racing over from the Fringe in near-torrential rain to get to Ryde Main, and with the weather worsening and people fast growing tired, we made the decision to perform only in Ryde Main and give Ventnor Illuminated a miss this year. A tough call, but with the state of our windswept mules by the end of the carnival, it was a necessary one. Another first, and everyone's spirits were lifted, and a barbecue in St Mary's Church Hall, our usual rehearsal haunt, gave us the chance to dry off.

There were even cardboard horse races, courtesy of Judith Day - affectionately known among those who have been on our camping trips as 'the corporal' - and, minus the occasional underhanded manoeuvre and questionable judgment, it was all good, clean fun!

Newport Illuminated hasn't done an illuminated carnival in about ten years, so there were nerves a-plenty as we took our second outing of the summer to the Matalan car park. First prize was a real achievement in our first illuminated appearance of the year - after wrestling lights onto sombreros and fighting to keep the new, heavier hats balanced on our heads, it was a welcome reward, as were the crowds that turned out to watch. This marks the first of many illuminated processions for Newport, we hope!

Our next illuminated was Sandown, and it was, quite frankly, one of the best carnivals we have ever done. The crowds were twenty people thick in places, the weather was perfect, the turn-out from floats and walkers was excellent and our energy levels were through the roof. Winning first prize only served to increase the hype, and our team trotted out to cheering crowds, our soundtrack blaring and our mules dancing at their best.

But there was better still to come...if we thought Sandown Illuminated was a buzz, nothing could have prepared us for Ryde. First place in our class, Best Overall and the Jo Brand trophy for Most Humorous Entry; ecstatic, we set off dancing along the seafront towards the crowds.

Packed. That's the only way to describe those streets: utterly rammed with people and an atmosphere so electric that we probably could have done the carnival twice over and still been raring to go!

With the carnival over, we deflated our mules for the final time. Sadly, though not for want of trying, we can't find a way to shoehorn them into Robinson Crusoe, so it's back to the stables with them for a while. If you miss them as much as we do, though, there are plenty of videos popping up all over YouTube to make you giggle at the end of a long, rainy day, of this year's entry and of our previous carnival offerings, too!

A massive thank-you to all our mules, to all those who made the ponchos and sourced the horses, to those who built the float, to those who walked so tirelessly with us at each carnival, to those who choreographed the routines, to all of the Island's carnival committees for their hard work in organising such a brilliant summer of processions and, of course, to those who came out to support us as we galloped around the Island - we truly do appreciate it!

After such a successful carnival season, it's time now to take the brakes off panto preparation and go full steam ahead ready for our first rehearsal on September 26th. Watch this space!

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