Review – Beccles & Bungay Journal – Jan 1978
Having a whale of a pantomime!
A hat trick of successes is the proud boast of Loddon Pantomime Players whose latest offering of Sleeping Beauty is as fun packed and enjoyable as the previous productions, Cinderella and Dick Whittington and his Cat.
For good honest clean family fun the Loddon panto takes some beating, and it is its subtle blend of new material mixed with traditional story that makes it so popular.
For the first performance on Wednesday there was a packed hall at Loddon Secondary School and children and adults alike had a whale of a time hissing and booing at the evil fairy, laughing at the Dame and generally falling in love with the characters.
“Sleeping Beauty” really does have all the ingredients of a top-class pantomime. It involves the audience at numerous points and even has a period where youngsters are invited on to the stage. Not surprisingly and with good reason it has been compared favourably over the last two years with the professional panto at Norwich Theatre Royal.
The man behind the entertainment is John Harris, who once again has come up with original Norfolk humour for the show. Some of the jokes are extremely funny, while others are extremely corny, but if, like me, you like corny jokes you should be well pleased with the entertainment.
Mr. Harris sense of fun also comes out in the names of the characters. King Edward Spudde, Lady Jezebel Mutton, Jester Minnit and Jester Second and Nick O’Teen are just some of the characters to appear.
For large portions of the panto, the cast moves away from the accepted story, always managing to come back in time to stop interest lagging.
For a small town, Loddon seems to have a tremendous number of talented artists with well over 100 people involved in the production in some way. It is always easy to pick out members of the cast without mentioning the hard working behind-the-scenes people who give so much.
In particular one person very often left out is organist Beryl Carver, who throughout the evening did not put a finger wrong.
Delightful specialist dancing items came from the Joan Gisborne Dancing School and the Loddon Youth Band under the direction of Ron Hinton. The band entered into the spirit of the evening by dressing up as a bunch of savages. Their playing of the floral dance however was smooth and enjoyable.
And so to the cast itself. Derek Lloyd was again outstanding as the pantomime Dame equipped with all the trimmings. Then there were the 12 good fairies – who included the Cross Channel Fairy and Fairy Cakes.
Marie Hemming was a country bumpkin Queen who tried desperately to put on a posh accent when in the presence of the king. Betty Best as Best Irish Fairy was goodness itself, but one of the stars of the show was Geraldine Cowley as Fairy Rotten, as evil a fairy as you’re ever likely to find at the bottom of your garden.
The heroes of the piece were Jill Ellis as Princess Beauty and John Bennett as Prince Florizel. The casting was perfect. Both have beautiful singing voices and blended well.
A special mention must go to the Larkin family who looked as if they were enjoying every minute of being on stage. The husband and wife team of Michael Larkin (Jester Minute) and Maureen Larkin (Lady Jezebel Mutton) and their son Ian Larkin (Jester Second) supplied wit and originality in a number of good humoured ways.
The show continues tonight and there are two performances tomorrow.
This year it is hoped that with the help of the additional Wednesday show, a substantial profit will be made to be donated to a number of charities.