Will the British Theatre Group’s production of Cinderella this weekend be gobsmacking, chuffing or cheeky?

Those are just some traditional British words often spoken by the members of the Darien British Group, who are performing in the show.

The 26th British panto production will be at Darien’s Town Hall auditorium at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 29, and Sunday, March 1. Tickets are $15. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit building1community.org and click “Events,” or The British Theatre Group of Darien on Facebook and click “Get Tickets.”

British Theatre Group of Darien

This all-women’s amateur acting group was informally formed 27 years ago. The 20-plus member group, which is based in Darien, has been putting on panto productions since 1992.

Panto refers to British pantomime, which dates back to the 16th or 17th century. It includes jokes for both children and adults within the same production.

Each panto show tells the general story of a fairy tale but incorporates songs, dances, jokes, and current events, as well as political issues in Britain or the Oscars.

Prior productions include Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Sleeping Beauty.

Parents perform in the show alongside their children, so in this way, it brings families together, according to Darien resident Caroline Burke, who is in the production.

There is a role for everyone in the show — both on stage and behind the scenes.

“The nice thing about pantomime is it’s designed to work on two levels,” Burke said.

On one level, the children are enjoying the fairy tale, and on another, there is adult humor that goes straight over the children’s heads, she said.

Also, instead of sitting and being quiet, the audience is encouraged to make noise and participate in what’s going on onstage.

For example, every time a “baddy” or “villain” appears on stage, the audience is told to boo loudly.

If someone is lurking behind one of the characters on stage, the audience warns the character out loud by shouting, “He’s behind you!”

Costumes are handmade and recycled. “They’re very colorful and over the top, according to Burke.

Darien resident Clodagh McCoole, another member of the British Group, said the key difference between pantomime in the U.S. and the U.K. is there are men involved in the production, and the men dress up in the women’s parts in the U.K.

This year, proceeds from the show’s tickets will support Building One Community in Stamford.

This nonprofit’s mission of immigrant support and integration resonates with the British Group, said Michelle Saldivar, who is playing the role of Cinderella in the production.

To date, the British Theatre Group has raised over $120,000, which it has given out to local nonprofits.

The production costs about $5,000 to put on. Each year, the group gets a sponsor to cover this cost. This year, there is an anonymous sponsor.

Darien British Group

Members of the British Theatre Group are also in the Darien British Group.

“We have all lived in Scotland, Wales, Ireland or England,” Burke said.

According to Burke, the need for the group arose due to the culture shock that often happens when someone arrives in the U.S. from the U.K.

“You arrive in Darien from Britain, and it’s an alien world,” Burke said. “You will think that you eat the same foods, speak the same language, and watch the same television shows as each other, but you don’t.”

Those from Britain found they had a common bond with one another and soon began meeting at one another’s homes for coffee company.

That’s how the group grew. It now has over 100 members.

People sign up to receive notifications of get-togethers online through Meetup.

Other groups and social events that have formed through the Darien British Group include a book group and film group. There is also a quiz night, a Christmas party and a curry night.

To learn more about the Darien British Group, send an email to michu88@gmail.com.

“Giving back”

The Darien British Group was started to share a piece of British culture with the town.

“It’s great that we can give back to the community,” McCoole said. “This community has given so much to us.”

“This gives our kids a chance to do something that is culturally part of who they are, and it gives them a little moment to shine.”

She added that the opportunity to laugh and have a little “sing-song” is welcome, especially in tough times.

“We can all take ourselves very seriously sometimes,” she added.

Burke said it’s good to support “something that’s so deeply rooted in British culture. At the end of the day, we have fun and in times like this, to have fun is great.”

Saldivar said she loves the camaraderie and the multi-generational aspect of being involved in this type of production.

“The kids age out and yet come back,” she said. “They go to college and move out of town, and yet they come back and help in different ways.”

“We have members at the Brit group that are at different stages of life. Some are grandparents and others are still having babies,” she added. “We are all part of a community.”

sfox@darientimes.com