“IN our house, we don’t count down to Christmas; we count down to the panto,” says Andrea Morrissey, the mother of three girls who are all in the Everyman pantomimeBeauty And The Beast, produced by CADA Performing Arts.
Performance is very much in the blood in Andrea’s family. Her mother, Lucia Malone, performed in the Cork Opera House in her youth and Andrea and her sister joined the Montforts where they did speech and drama.
Such is Silver Springs-based Andrea’s love of the dramatic arts that she is currently studying speech and drama and hopes to teach it next year.
It is 12-year-old Robyn, the middle child, who is responsible for the family’s involvement in panto.
“We all went to the Everyman panto seven years ago. It was our first visit to the panto there as we had always gone to the Opera House one. When it was over, Robyn, who was four and a half at the time, asked: ‘Can I do that?’ I said she could and she joined CADA straight after Christmas.
“While she would sing and dance in front of you, Robyn was actually a very quiet child. She was very much in her older sister’s shadow. But she has come out of herself so much in the last few years that it’s really amazing.
“CADA are fantastic with her. They have a way of bringing out the confidence in every child and making them shine, no matter what. A child could come in with no confidence and by the end of the year, they’re oozing it.”
Clearly a talented girl, Robyn won the Under 12s Solo Action Song at the Feis in 2016 and also won the whole competition, says her proud mother.
There is constant artistic expression going on in the Deasy household.
“Coming up to Christmas, it’s hectic. There is always someone dancing in the front room, the kitchen or in the hall. They don’t walk, they dance! There’s a lot of singing in the house too. It’s like that nearly all year round.
“Christmas is a bit mad alright. Robyn and Kayanna (aged 13) are in 47 shows this Christmas because the panto is on twice a day.”
Andrea doesn’t complain about how much time it all takes up.
“I don’t mind because the joy you get looking at them and seeing them perform makes it all worth it.”
Andrea’s husband, Noel, is not interested in singing and dancing but is no doubt very proud of his daughters.
Robyn, who is in the chorus at the pantomime, admits to getting a bit nervous before going on stage.
“But I love being on stage. I can see most of the audience,” she said.
Looking ahead, she would like to work as a speech and drama teacher.
Kayanna, who is in second year at St Angela’s, loves being a member of CADA.
“It’s kind of like home, a big family. It’s really fun and all my friends have joined it as well. I prefer to go to CADA than sit at home and watch TV.”
When she finishes school, Kayanna hopes to go to UCC to take a degree in theatre studies.
The youngest member of the Deasy family is six-year-old Mia, who is performing in every fourth show.
“I like being in panto because it’s fun and it makes you more confident,” she says. “I’m doing the Oompa Loompa song from Charlie And The Chocolate Factory.”
Mia is in no rush to grow up but when she does, she “might be an actress or a teacher. I don’t really know.”
Meanwhile, Margaret Deasy, who lives in Gurranabraher, has three daughters, all of whom have been or are involved in the Everyman panto. How did they become interested?
“My brother, Kenneth O’Regan, did the first panto with CADA and then my daughter, Samantha, got involved. So I’ve had someone involved in the panto for the last 22 years”
Organising Christmas, not to mind ferrying children to panto rehearsals, can be a headache for many parents. But Margaret says: “In my household, you have to be very organised. We’re all out together because we’re all involved in some way. We basically spend Christmas in the Everyman.”
Margaret, like Andrea Deasy, acts as chaperone to the younger children.
At this stage, Margaret says the annual madness “is like second nature, really”. Her husband, Paul, helps out too.
“He’s like a taxi service driving us all up and down to the Everyman. He helps out with staging if needed.”
Performing on stage is “unbelievable for the girls’ confidence and social skills,” she said.
“They love singing and dancing and they have made lovely friends through CADA. Plus we get to know their friends. They’re so busy with rehearsals that they don’t have time to go on their phones.”
The eldest of the Deasy girls is 27-year-old Samantha. A member of CADA since she was a small child, she has danced in the panto over the years as well as playing roles.
This year, she is putting her professional qualification as a make-up artist to good use, doing the make-up for the boys and girls in the Everyman panto.
Samantha, who is the manager at the Oliver Plunkett Street branch of make-up company, Inglot, is putting a lot of energy into doing the make-up for the Beast.
Her work on the panto started in the summer. While Samantha’s day job involves regular make-up, she trained in stage make-up at Dun Laoighaire Senior College. And for the panto posters, which are put together months before Christmas, she had to come up with a particular ‘look’ for the show. For the Beast, played by Keith Hanley, Samantha approached his make-up almost forensically.
“I sat down and looked at what the character is going to be like. Is he scary or really nice? What are the costumes going to be like? Will there be a wig? I take it from there and also, it’s important to talk to the director.”
Samantha demonstrates how to apply the stage make-up, which the performers then do themselves before each show.
Figuring out the Beast’s make-up was the biggest challenge for Samantha. Looking at her career long term, she would love to do more theatre work, but says she’s very happy in her day job.
Samantha’s 20-year-old old sister, Lauren, a student of English at UCC, will be helping out at the panto this year but won’t be on stage.
“I started being on stage from the age of three, mainly in children’s choruses in the Everyman panto. I don’t do drama anymore. I really like music. I play piano and the guitar. I did piano at Scoil Mhuire and I taught myself as well.”
Being involved in panto, even in a back-stage capacity “really gets you into the Christmas spirit. It’s when the family is all together”.
The youngest of the Deasy girls, 13-year-old Robyn, is in first year at Scoil Mhuire and will perform in the panto’s chorus at the Everyman throughout its run. She has been in all the pantos at the venue since she was four. Robyn likes musical theatre.
“I played the young Cosette in Les Miserables in the Firkin Crane with CADA three years ago,” she says.
One of the junior chorus members in Beauty and the Beast, Robyn doesn’t get nervous going on stage.
“It’s fine once you’ve done the first show,” she says.
She adds that there’s “great excitement at this time of the year at home”.
Ten-year-old Zara Deasy, a cousin of the older Deasy girls, decided she wanted to get involved in the panto having seen them on stage. A fourth class pupil at Clogheen National School, Zara says she “loves the panto. I’m dancing in it. When I’m older, I’d like to be an actor or a singer.
“I think I’ll travel to America,” she adds, with twinkling stars in her eyes.
Beauty and the Beast is at the Everyman until January 14. See www.everymancork.com