From the moment the band took up “Silver Lining” we were away and the Friday and Saturday night audiences settled down quickly after the first “fairy flash” to wake us up and into the mood of the show. Colourful, pacy and upbeat, this was Parish Players at its very best with the audience engaged from the start.
Sweets and an early audience song were also good ideas to encourage interaction and audience participation and on both nights the audience took their cue. Asides, boos and hisses and some throwaway lines kept the pace going, many of the audience were more than ready to join in with the players on stage. There’s nothing like some early applause and feedback to settle the cast and encourage even more out of the actors.
Overall the balance between Principals and Chorus worked well, with some very slick scene changes and few pauses between the cast leaving and more people coming on.
The appearance of the “Littlies” always brings an “Ah!” and the three young players were concentrating hard in order to do so well. They looked a picture in their lovely costumes.
From the moment Jack and Jill appeared it was clear we had two experienced performers out to entertain. Sally shows such good audience rapport and was never let down by a missed cry of “Oi Oi Oi.” Louise Williams was a feisty Jill and clearly no pushover with some lovely expressions and movement. Both tackled difficult songs with aplomb and gusto though they would have been helped considerably by a slightly lower key.
Paul Riches as the King was suitably both regal and cowardly. He reminded me very much of the “Cowardly Lion” from the Wizard of Oz – perhaps the golden costume helped to create the effect. A man without courage indeed. The King and Dame song/speaking worked well and a useful tactic for the less confident singer makes for an effective comic moment.
The role of the fairy was crucial to the pace and movement of the plot. Well done Emily for creating a wonderful comic character with excellent audience rapport and timing of lines and pauses. By the time the “40” song was underway there was genuine sympathy for her – then incredulity as the full horror of the geriatric club came into view. By Saturday night I kept rather more composure but the genius who dreamt up the hideous costumes should be congratulated for creating a moment that will set a benchmark for comic cameos for years to come. I’ll never look at Cheryl, Roy, Graham and Richard in the same way again. Well done and good sports all of you.
Across the ages the standard was uniformly high. In particular Sarah Collingwood displayed a maturity and depth of character well beyond her years. Confident, gangly in that wonderful costume – surely a favourite character in the matinee and displaying a fine sense of comic timing in delivering her lines.
So to the classic Panto characters – Baddie and Dame. All credit to Johnny Depp for providing the inspiration for the pirate / Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen cross – certainly Dickensian in execution of the lines with a touch of the Monty Pythons’ in the “old woman” disguise. Simon Cheetham excelled in the role; from the asides to the audience to his evident enjoyment he made maximum use of the effect of costume and make-up. Marvellous.
David showed his considerable experience in holding, working and developing audience rapport. From the gold eyelashes to the pink udder bag the gags were delivered with superb timing and again maximum use of costume and make-up to develop the character and create the effects.
The Chorus had clearly been well rehearsed and looked confident in their placing and movement on the stage. Some fantastic set pieces (notably the aeroplane) must have been precision rehearsed. The dancing was elegant and well staged, with the movements flowing and obviously well within the scope of experienced and novice dancers alike. Some individual cameos in Chorus reactions showed how the whole group was working to keep the action going. The Flag song worked wonderfully well. The booming voice of the giant was consistent with the giant face in Scene II. The audience throwing balls at it was another good idea.
The set was effective, colourful and versatile, in particular the arch effect. The new curtains really helped to produce a crisp and clean feel to the set assisted by well thought-out lighting effects – particularly the UV. If you “spot” the lighting then it’s not right and it never happened – congratulations to the lighting team. Also the sounds team were very convincing – it took me two nights to realise that Jack was making the effects “live.”
The UV effects across the stage produced a well deserved round of applause. The net and moth prop created a stir and the dairy effects and props helped the scene along.
The songs and music kept the pace going and were well rehearsed and suitable for the voices in the men. However the wonderful “crow” effect with the voice of Louise Williams would have been even more magical if the song had been in the slightly lower range. Overall the music kept the show rolling along – well done again. Maureen and team performed with considerable aplomb at the right volume and with a versatile combination of instruments.
Costume triumphed again and I particularly liked the effort made with the boys’/men’s costumes in the Chorus – the girls always look wonderful but the boys sparkled too.
The purple “flash” effect for the walk down showed that you don’t need an elaborate costume change at the end to create the right “note.”
Stage area – well done – slick, fast, everything ready to go and quick changes. Only one point – watches sparkle even in the “darkness.”
And finally – lest they thought I’d forgotten – Daisy the Cow. Fab hat – great dancing, well co-ordinated and with a character all of her own. Well done Chrissy and Maggi – I understand a lifetime’s ambition has been achieved.
So to all in the show, well done, but particularly to Chris and his unsung team of directors, choreographers, make-up, producers and stage managers – only a year until I can enjoy the panto again.