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Captain Hook's Revenge


2 - 5th January 2008


Richard Coleman


Emily Miller



The key thing about Panto is it is a family event. There has to be something for everyone, the adults, the teenagers but particularly the kids.

To that end I also brought my son, Alexander, who is 9 but on the autistic spectrum. The production on Saturday was the first panto he’d seen. He didn’t actually want to see me last year so you’ve managed to succeed where I failed!

. Whilst it has to be said the jokes seemed a lot cornier, shall we say, than on other pantos the audience particularly on Thursday night seemed very slow to respond to the jokes. Maybe it was jokes, maybe it was the audience. But in truth I think some of the comic delivery could have been improved in places. Well a bit anyway.

The cast was very youthful. Even the older members of the cast looked youthful! Especially the beardless Richard. Took years of you, Richard! Generally I thought the casting was pretty good.

And so to the performances. In no particular order of importance or merit although it seems only right I should start with Hook himself.

I thought Pete as Captain Hook was a great character. He came more to life in the matinee performance on Saturday, as did most of the performances. He wasn’t exactly the most evil Hook that there’s been – I actually quite liked him but maybe I’ve just an affinity for villains. Pete carried each of his scenes well and helped drive it along, particularly the longish first scene.

Then there was Richard as dear old Dotty. Not sure whether you’ve played the Dame, before Richard, but you’re a natural, Darling. Only slight stumble was in the middle of the Joke Shop Scene where the pace seemed to drop a bit, particularly on the matinee. But otherwise a larger than life character which you obviously relished in Richard and played with great aplomb.

I thought Roy as the Croc was excellent. Pity we couldn’t see more of you really. The Rock Around the Croc number and subsequent dialogue with one of the rats (Bubonic was that?) brought an additional vibrancy to proceedings after the interval and really helped carry the Second Act in my view.

Chris looked the part as Chief Passingwater and did his best with some of the worst toilet gags this side of Benny Hill, whilst Caryl made a wonderful entrance as Old Crone, backed up by the flashing lights.

I also thought Clare as Tonkabelle was suitably stubborn and mimed her part well though a little curious how she somehow seemed to recover her voice for the singing parts even before the end?

. Charlie as Peter Pan was appropriately mischievous and I thought that Sarah made a wonderful Wendy and she certainly has a good voice. Although I’m not sure I was ever quite convinced that Charlie’s Peter was exactly head over heels about her.

And I have to say wasn’t entirely convinced by the relationship between Michael and Running Water either. Bit more work on the ‘starry eye’ department needed there I think. See me later – I’ll give you a few tips. But otherwise I thought that Joe played Michael pretty straight - as the role required - and Rosie as Running Water made a perfect Chief’s daughter.

Generally I thought the performances of each of the four youthful leads, were admirable and no doubt will stand you in good stead for other more demanding roles in the future.

Peter gave the impression that he might actually have been happier with one of the redskin squaws, wonderfully played by Francesca, Danielle and Hannah. I liked the interaction between them and the rather exaggerated way that they doted after Peter and their dancing was first class.

What I also liked about the production, and maybe this was one of the big benefits of this panto was that virtually everyone in the cast had a few lines of substance to say rather than relying on a core cast of a dozen or so and the rest in the chorus. In particular I liked the way in which the script provided for a number of alternative comic pairings.

Top of this list were Smee and Sharkey. I think they worked pretty well off one another. Andrea as Sharkey could never be accused of lacking energy, enthusiasm or sheer presence. Whenever she was on stage you couldn’t take your eyes off her and with Justin’s Smee they made a lively comic duo. Just wonder if more could have been made of Smee’s more effeminate side as a contrast to Sharkey’s more roguish nature?

I also liked the two rats, Bertie and Anne as Bubonic and Plague (who thinks up these names?). I enjoyed the little details, scratching of the ears and scampering across stage and their delivery was clear and amusing.

Then there was the little cake making scene between David as Splice and George as Mainsail. That was well done with some good comic timing. And I was particularly impressed with George’s willingness to smash eggs on his head each night. Was that really in the original script? Auditions for that role must have been fun.

Now were there any other comic pairings? Of course. Lindsay as Slugbucket and Caryl in her additional role as Skunkfeather. How could I forget them? How? Mind you I was intrigued how this particular Indian reservation in Never Neverland magically got transported to somewhere in Tyneside. Or had you just been seeing a lot of your family over Xmas, Caryl? Anyway the two of you were great fun as well.

There were inevitably a number of smaller parts, Bob as ever doing his bit, Alice and the other George all contributed well. As did Rosie, Abby and Kitty in their cameo roles as the Little Indians, admirably managed by the biggest Littlie I’ve ever seen, Michelle.

I don’t profess to be an expert on choreography, hey I’ve got two left feet as anyone who’s seen me dance will tell you, but I was suitably impressed with the youthful Jamie Litser's first bold attempt to bring together the range of different dancing talents available at PP and put it into some form of coherent whole.

Having been on that stage I know how difficult it is doing the big numbers with lots of people up there and with limited space. However I particularly liked Kung Fu Fighting, Twisting and Rock Around the Croc.

Costumes and make up were as good and as over the top as ever, which is what you need for a panto after all. I lost track with Richard’s costume changes but was particularly impressed by the quick change at the end. I also loved the Croc outfit. I noticed that Roy didn’t take off the croc head for the encore on the Saturday matinee. My guess is you didn’t want to spoil the illusion for the kids. Well it worked – my son thought you were real! Well done to Cheryl, Michelle, Anita and Jo for the costumes and make up.

One of the things that Parish Players always does well is set construction. And given there were 5 different sets and eight scene changes that was no mean feat this time. The little details for the scenes such as the Darling Joke Shop and the Indian Camp are what makes the difference sometimes. My only observation is that the detail on the Crocodile Pool would have been missed by those not sitting towards the front given the flat layout of the hall. But overall scene changes seemed to go pretty seamlessly. Well done to Neil, Sally, Sue and Rosie for the set and to Rebecca and Lauren for the props.

Sound effects came on more or less on time, especially liked Peter crashing. Pity we couldn’t have had Peter actually flying but even that might be a step too far even for Parish Players. Think Peter could have worked a little bit on his lipsync when mimicking Hook, but don’t worry about the Charlie – it never did any of the stars on top of the pops any harm. Well done James, Alex, Lucy and Katie for the lighting and Will, Josie and David for the sound.

The house band played energetically and were pretty tight for most of the songs – and Charlie Hamblin came close to stealing the show with his solo on ‘I need a hero’. I do sometimes wonder if the music needed to be quite that loud as it did occasionally seem to drown out the voices, despite being miked up – but hey maybe I’m just getting old.

But well done to Musical Director, Sue, in what is, I think, her first Parish Players Panto and to the youthful band, Charlie, Andrew and Owen.

Congratulations too, to the singing coaches, Simon & Will, on what, at times must have been a challenging task with some tricky songs. My only minor quibble would be that sometimes the

Finally the direction and production. Emily and Phil. The problem with doing a panto in the first week of January – especially one which starts on 2 January is that for the Director and Producer, in particular, I guess it must become a major preoccupation over the Christmas & New Year break when everyone else is having a good time. I’m sure you must have understanding relatives! For the answer to that perhaps the best way to sum up the show is the exchange I had with my son. I asked him at the end ‘did you enjoy the show Alexander’?

And what do you think he said to me – ‘Oh no I didn’t’? Of course not. He answered with great emphasis ‘oh yes I did – I loved it’. And that for me is what counts most. Well done Emily and well done everyone.

David Hall

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