Review – T Rymer NODA – Jan 2016
A new director with some experienced ‘old hands!’, can make a difference to the overall feel of a piece and here we had a first time director with some innovative ideas really adding a new and fresh feel to this well established local panto.
First of all let me congratulate Christian Lovick, who as Dame, Royal Nanny Winnie, gave a truly remarkable performance for one so young. His hard work ‘in the frock’, and more, was constant and funny. He had the style to engage with the audience and was not afraid to let the traditional ‘Man dressed as a Dame’ in any way inhibit his actions. He will be a hard act to follow, and Loddon have had some good Dames over the years!
Not least was Bill the Jester (Graham Orpit) who found a role in which he could truly entertain us. His repartee and banter with the audience was a real joy and he too must have been exhausted as a twenty minute slap stick scene had this pair covered in every ounce of gunge, paste, wall paper, water and more…he fell off a tall ladder and was left hanging from a flat as they slid and slipped and also put Assistant Royal Nanny (Maureen Larkin) in some very uncompromising positions as she too ‘enjoyed’ this perhaps over long, but very funny interlude…hope they had a shower back stage (Oh well..!).
The attempts by Winnie to ‘seduce’ Prime Minister (Peter Samain) were a really well portrayed running gag. He was an excellent foil to her energetic advances! Oh yes, we may be forgiven for losing sight of the plot. Of course we had Good Fairy Forget-Me-Not (Jackie Bingham) who had a big moment as she overturned the death threat from Bad Fairy Nightshade (Caroline Bown).
The tableau of the ‘Big Sleep’ in the Royal Bed Chamber was a real visual treat and was made all the more magical as Fairy Forget-Me-Not sung Hushabye Mountain in acapela style. Poor old Fairy Nightshade had no answer to that, but still managed to elicit our boos and hisses… although she did think we “could do better”. Some humorous asides perhaps let us think she wasn’t all bad…and her departure was rather low key! We need to see redemption or a ‘final’ solution! This is panto after all!
The traditional tale led our lovely Princess Beauty (Janna Sapey) to mingle among the commoners and her wanderlust led her to the fateful spinning wheel and the ‘deadly’ Nightshade…before the finger pricking moment…bit underplayed but time was short as Slapstick scene had extended Act one to 9.10pm! Beauty was nicely demure showing confidence and good regal style as did her parents King Harold and Queen Mary ( Richard Rollison and Gina Buntock) resplendent with costumes befitting their Royal status.
Now the ‘hero’ of the piece Principal Boy Prince Valiant (Elizabeth Chapman) perhaps needed a higher profile as he showed real stage presence (just needed a couple of thigh slaps!). Panto needs a hero to be a prominent player! The duet with Beauty worked well and he delivered the ‘True love kiss’ with style before seeking her hand in marriage from King Harold leading to the big wedding finale.
Some smaller cameos added additional comedy to the story, Greenfinger George ( Shane Baxter) and Odd Job Man Bob (Rebekah Wicks) gave us some laughs around the palace and Chauffeur Jeeves (Gwen walker) was in line for a bus pass! Two fine upstanding Palace Guards with huge axes (Steve Burton/Daniel Turner) were vigilant in their duties! The Funky Feet dancers and Panto Babes gave some excellent and well drilled interludes to savour.
Technicals all worked well with sound effects, lighting cues and pyrotechnics adding atmosphere. Songs, mostly tracks, were well chosen but with some needing thought re start /finish inhibiting applause on occasion! Costumes were outstanding and extravagant giving the actors that extra confidence in their characters. Great Panto!