…..And a thoroughly good time was had by all “Ain’t that right kids?” This year’s post Christmas treat from the Parish Players certainly delivered all that a pantomime should; a traditional love story, plenty of jokes, ooo’s and ahhh’s, songs, and all dressed up in the most wonderful costumes.
I have to confess I’ve not always been the world’s greatest fan of the pantomime “art form”, although it has pedigree credentials being a descendant of the 15th Century Italian Theatre, “Commedia d’ell Arte”, where a cast of stock characters would take us through a traditional plot embellished with improvised interludes by the “zanni” (roughly translated as clowns, though not the red nosed variety). The standard characters would be instantly recognisable by the masks they wore and their behaviour … and the inevitability of the farce was always a source of great delight to the audience, exactly the features of our modern panto today.
The Parish Players captured their “stock” characters very well, from the dashing thigh slapping Prince and Dandini to the hideous ugly sisters and their frightful mother, from the calm and gracious fairy Godmother to the artless charm of Buttons. All more than fulfilled our expectations. The unsavoury villains were larger than life just as they should be, with the ugly sisters a large double helping of Lily Savage! The choral/ensemble episodes were well worked out and constructed to get across the expositional passages in the script. Baron Hardup’s meekness was beautifully captured and at one point a man in front of me offered an unintentional hoot of recognition when the Baron replied to “who is boss around here” with “you are dear” to his grotesque overbearing wife … perhaps pantomime can serve as social comment as well as entertainment? The children in the forest were a delight and their enjoyment in participating is such a crucial key to the whole reason for a local community group to produce these plays. I have to admit I loved some of the “zanni” interludes, notably Ammer and Tongs where the script and ad-libs were deft and underplayed beautifully and I also liked the rather surreal “ballet” at the palace. Technically and visually the transformation scene at the end of Act One was wonderful and imaginative in its realisation and allowed genuine gasps of admiration from the audience.
There was really nothing missing from the ingredients of this pantomime however I would urge the director to be ruthless with over long scripts…I felt that the ugly sisters had a few too many corny jokes to wade through and this held up the story sometimes….the jokes themselves are written to be deliberately “lame” and once the audience has had a pleasurable groan or two it’s time to move on.
All recognition has to be given to the phenomenal amount of hard work, patience and sacrifice that goes into producing a show like this. The costumes were fabulous, the music perfect, props and set economic and effective (although I didn’t care for the appearance of a Tupperware container to hold the piece of cake from the ball!) and the magnificence of the set piece of the pumpkin coach was magical. It was for me a lovely way to spend a Saturday afternoon and the proof of the pudding (or pumpkin) was my own children’s evident enjoyment of seeing their local community create and participate in such a fantastic show.