There are not many parishes that can boast a pantomime of such good quality, written, produced and performed on home ground. The parish player presented us with an excellent evening's entertainment which was simple, but well produced. The movement was particularly good. Such an improvement on bogus ballet !
The band was even better than usual. All the musical numbers were pleasing and they enlivened the whole proceedings, not only by orchestrating and adapting the music themselves, but by sharing the jokes with the stage and audience.
Forty folk were on stage. Graham Derriman and John Gout were amusing as the university professors. Irene Teague was a rather sweet witch. Helen Venables and Simon Eve made an excellent Marquis and Marchioness of Merton Park, supported by Peggy Case as Lady Mitcham and Geoffrey Start as a pleasantly blase Lord Morden. Chris Spencer and Roy Venables gave us some attractive comedy as the two friars from Merton Priory. David Golder was good, if somewhat repetitive as Pansy - if you like that sort of thing. Melvyn Procter made a convincing villain. Carl Sims, if over-endowed with facial hair, still made a goy spokesman for the fun-loving villagers. Carol McCubbin made a vivacious assistant to the leading lady, Melanie Brown as Rosemary, who radiated cheerfulness as did Janet Gout, the principal boy, Prince Frederick of Fuji Fuji. Kay Webb as Eliza should have possibly been a little more matronly and a little less like the fairy queen in disguise but she made a very pleasant impression. Dick Sutton, brought in at the last moment, was a convincing witch-doctor. The two producers, Graham McCubbin and Michael Newton also appeared in a song and dance between scenes, which was well done and pleasing.
The producers are to be congratulated on the whole show but especially on the way in which they got the chorus to sparkle and their presentation of all the concerted numbers.
The main critical comment which I should want to make is not about the way in which parts were played, which was excellent, nor about the method of presentation, which was well thought out, but about the pantomime itself. What must have been a very topical pantomime when Mr. Llewelyn wrote it some ten years ago, had been updated by the omission of a lot of inevitably dated material, but this had not been replaced with the topical allusions and good-hearted but critical comment on the life of the neighbourhood which one has come to expect as one on the of the hall marks of a really good Merton Pantomime.
The content was thin, but, never mind, because everything else was so good that only someone whose evening was marred by having to write a criticism would have failed to be carried away by the cheerfulness and liveliness of the cast and the band and the atmosphere which they created.