'Are you sure about this?' I say. 'Really, really sure?'
Mrs Miggins nods her head. 'Really, really,' she says. 'I'm going to pin this on the notice board now and if anyone has any problems then they can chat to me about it in private in my director's office.'
Having been on the receiving end of one of Mrs Miggins' 'chats', I give an involuntary shudder and hold up my hands. 'Well, as long as you are prepared for the backlash,' I say.
Mrs Miggins trots off to the ballroom which is now fully made over to its role as rehearsal room/dance studio/costume store/ props facility. She is going to pin the cast list to the noticeboard and I am going to give it 10 minutes before I follow on with a mop, disinfectant and industrial strength bin bags to clear up the aftermath.
When I arrive, there are, indeed, scenes of minor fracas. Hens and cats are flapping and spitting in a fur 'n' feather frenzy; the only happy bods in the house seem to belong to Flora Bijou Mybug who is cast as Puss in Boots because she has steadfastly refused to remove her purple spangly footwear, and Ptolemy Pheasant, who has been cast in the secondary lead role of Dick Whittington. And even then he is having a bit of a grump.
'My character is to be called Richard Whittington,' he announces. 'Richard. Not Dick.'
'Why?' says Mrs Miggins. 'Dick is traditional.'
'It's undignified,' says Ptolemy. 'For obvious reasons.'
'Not obvious to me,' sniffs Mrs Miggins. 'You know where you can go if you don't like it. It's Dick or nothing.'
Thankfully, Ptolemy Pheasant elects to maintain a dignified silence and takes himself off to the bar to knock back a snifter or two of 'Old Grouse.' Mrs Miggins allows herself a small sigh of relief because she didn't fancy the hassle she'd have got from Mrs Pumphrey if Ptolemy had decided to strut his stuff out of the Manor and on to brighter lights of Exeter.
Meanwhile, Tango Pete is muttering in a corner with other newcomers, Claude and Claudette.
'I've given this place the best years of my life,' he says. 'I could have gone on to bigger and better things ages ago, but did I? No, I did not. And how has my impeccable loyalty been repaid? With the role of King Rat! King Rat!! I ask you! Me - undisputed Hen Dance champion for eleven years on the foxtrot and I end up playing a rodent in a pantomime. It's not fair!'
And he actually stamps his foot. And not in a paso doble kind of way either.
Claude and Claudette glance at each other and manage to summon up a look of sympathy for Tango Pete. To be honest, they don't really care but they are happy to have got this panto gig and have no intention of rocking the boat with the natives. They have been cast as the Captain and Captain's Mate but it is their magic act they are more concerned with. However, Claudette is already thinking she's going to arm wrestle Claude for the role of Captain, just to make a statement about gender stereotypes. Why shouldn't there be a lady captain, she thinks. Captain Birds Eye was a girl after all. Even though she had to sell out the sisterhood by wearing a massive white beard to the audition to get the job.
The rest of the controversial cast list runs as follows:
Puss in Boots: Flora Bijou Mybug
Dick Whittington: Ptolemy Pheasant
Alice Fitzwarren: Camilla T. Bush
Alderman Fitzwarren: Mrs Bennet
Idle Jack: Mrs Poo
Fairy Dustballs: Daisy Doo
King Rattus Rattus: Tango Pete
Sarah the Cook : Phoebe the Cat
The Sultana Bun : Mrs Slocombe
Captain Of The Saucy Sally: Claudette
Captain's Mate : Claude (subject to arm wrestle)
Genie of the Pants : Primrose Banks
Producer, Director, Half-time Oranges: Mrs Miggins
Lion/Witch/Wardrobe/Hair/Makeup/Lights/Camera/Action : Mrs Gloria Inexcelsis Deo Pumphrey
Gopher/ Gaffer/ Second Dolly Grip: Lady Malarkey
Artistic director and Coffee Maker: Lord Malarkey
So, there we are. Parts have been allocated, roles have been established. Egos have been ironed into submission and scripts have been issued. Rehearsals begin on the morrow...
...and in a box in the Trompe L'Oeil theatre, the scratching of a furious pen on livid paper can be heard. Someone is unhappy and is about to send their first letter of wishes.
And it ain't to Father Christmas.