Graves Cup 2019: Box Office Gold
07/01/19: The pantomime season is well and truly here once again (oh yes it is) and the annual Ipswich Graves Cup production took place to rave reviews at the weekend.
As the cast began to arrive on Saturday morning an early problem manifested itself with a clear surfeit of players auditioning for the ugly sister roles. Thankfully the scope was broadened once Nick Bunyan turned up in full Widow Twanky costume before a near full house of dwarfs - Charlie, Sebbie, Olly, Yankee and Daddy - were soon heard heigh-hoing their way down from Westwood, off to work on the Ipswich courts.
With a cast of thousands this year, the Saturday audition process was even more arduous than usual with opportunities to perform punctuated by lengthy periods of rest and recuperation backstage. Some potential stars began to emerge during the course of Saturday's play: lost boy Tim Wyndham - back after several years in the wilderness - stormed through one group unbeaten alongside sidekick Karen Hird; Peter Pan himself, the ageless uberveteran Nigel Cox, looked in fine fettle with partner Cameron Lyle, who was himself making a convincing pitch for the part of the beanstalk in his green shirt. Seb Cooley was reinforcing his position as a giant of the game, mining a rich seam of form with partner Elliot Caldwell, plucked from the Ipswich School junior chorus line, thrust into a starring role and responding well.
The production began to hit slight problems with over-running towards the end of the first day, with the twenty pair cast list roughly on schedule for a 10pm finish at one point. With Peter "Buttons" Boughton pulling the strings, however, the show was quickly moved on and despite the group stage not quite reaching a natural conclusion, there was just about enough evidence for a quarter-final draw to be produced during the course of the evening dinner in the school. After all, even a full set of group results is only ever a starting point for negotiation at the Graves Cup.
The splendid dinner was enjoyed by all, not least as the attempts to determine the Sunday knockout draw threatened to tip the whole show over from pantomime into farce. The other main talking points were what the collective noun should be for a large group of Cooleys (a miniseries?) and whether Fairy Godmother Tony Stubbs was going to wave his wand at midnight, turn a pumpkin into a minibus and then drive everyone home once the port had run out (3:40am this year in case anyone is keeping a record).
After the Aladdin's Cave of the Greyhound kitchens had been fully emptied of its treasures on Sunday morning, the show continued in unstoppable fashion. John Caudle has made the part of Captain Hook his own over the years - well they both have only one hand that works - and he and his right hand man Chris Lumbard produced two notable early victories to reach the semi-finals before coming unstuck against Wyndham & Hird. The other semi-final was the game of the weekend, a see-saw oh yes it is oh no it isn't encounter won 13-12 in the decider by Seb Cooley & Elliot Caldwell against Cam Lyle & Nigel Cox, a match which introduced the audience participation element of proceedings with Fairy Godmother Stubbs wandering aimlessly across the back of the court mid-rally.
Karen & Tim's attempted Cinderella story got off to a strong start in the final as they won the first game but after that it was most definitely a case of "behind you" as far as their best form was concerned and they were unable to withstand the subsequent Cooley & Caldwell onslaught, which gave them a 2-1 win and possession of the shiny new and as yet unbroken Graves Cup.
The last knockings of the tournament saw things take a slight turn off-message. Firstly, Stubbsy's weekend went from bad to worse as he and Eloise Carter unbelievably failed to win the plate, losing in the semi-finals to pantomime villains Tim Gregory & Tom Hoskins. Pantomime then turned into Greek tragedy (or a cheap knock-off version of Star Wars at least) in the plate final as Hoskins jr struck down his father, the Tim/Tom combination holding off a late fightback from Hoskins sr & Luke Free to win 15-12.
Thanks are due as always to Ipswich School for hosting the tournament and the dinner, to Peter Boughton for his magnificently inimitable organisation and to all those who came along, played, watched, chatted, ate, drank and generally made it such an enjoyable occasion.
J.Caudle & C.Lumbard beat P.Forrest & S.Woolfries 15-12
K.Hird & T.Wyndham beat Tom Fletcher & H.Catchpole 15-5
S.Cooley & E.Caldwell beat S.Cass & O.Taylor 15-5
N.Cox & C.Lyle beat S.Burnell & N.Mason 15-7
K.Hird & T.Wyndham beat J.Caudle & C.Lumbard 2-0 (12-9, 12-6)
S.Cooley & E.Caldwell beat N.Cox & C.Lyle 2-1 (12-9, 14-15, 13-12)
S.Cooley & E.Caldwell beat K.Hird & T.Wyndham 2-1 (10-13, 12-3, 12-3)
G.Hoskins & L.Free beat I.Weaver & J.Cooley 12-11
T.Gregory & T.Hoskins beat T.Stubbs & E.Carter 12-7
T.Gregory & T.Hoskins beat G.Hoskins & L.Free 15-12
T.Fletcher & H.Catchpole drew with S.Burnell & N.Mason 1-1 (11-12, 12-10)