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Adventure In Pantoland

Date

18th November 2017

Society

St Cuthberts Amateur Dramatic Society - Darwen

Venue

St. Chads

Type of Production

Pantomime

Director

David Gallagher & Janet Grime

Musical Director

Dave Smith

Choreographer

n/a

Report

Author: Kevin Proctor (on behalf of David Slater)

This panto features a series of vignettes of the nation’s most cherished fairy tales in their panto formations. 

The premise of this pantomime amalgamation was rather intriguing, setting it apart from every other show within this patriotic genre. We follow four typically generic pantomime leads - a Dame, a Principal Boy and Principal Girl with the helpful but inept Simpleton, who are tricked out of ‘The Land of Make Believe’ by Poison Ivy, the villain of the piece, casting them under a spell to lose their memories and forget who they all are. In order to return home safely they have to assume the lead roles in a succession of traditional panto extracts to re-establish their identities.  They work their way through variations of Sleeping Beauty, Aladdin, Dick Whittington, Jack & the Beanstalk, Snow White and Cinderella. The various scenes are all linked by the continued plotting of the Wicked Witch and her hapless assistant.

Due to its unique structure, this production kept us engaged with an original narrative that was both refreshing and unpredictable …well, to a degree. Without wanting to drop a spoiler I’d have put money on a happy ending and well, I’m sure nobody would be surprised to learn that good triumphed over evil and wrong was eventually put right in a merry wrap-it-up final scene.

Making the boldest statements were Michelle Caton as the Evil Witch, relishing the wickedness with success and enjoyment with David Gallagher who demonstrated an ideal presence, charm and persona as the traditional and much-loved pantomime dame both highlighting a desirable and most effective rapport with the audience.

Adult members only made up a small percentage of this cast with youth being heavily featured in principal parts and an ensemble made up entirely of youngsters bringing some worthy energy and spirit to the renderings.

A special mention must go to the wardrobe department as the production featured quite an impressive array of excellent and attractive costumes throughout the entire cast.

The scenic set up was kept quite simple but, as you’d expect with this concept, it was required to feature a diverse assortment of locations which was designed and interpreted with good results taking us through the countryside, old Peking, A medieval castle, London town and a forest. I particularly favoured the giant storybook feature which was a smart idea and wholly appropriate for this assortment of fairy tales.   

Musically, the songs chosen to aid the storytelling was a good selection all kept in check by Dave Smith tinkling the ivories. The singing itself was pleasant enough but at times a little too lax, a bit more punch, guts and volume would’ve lifted the energy even more. I was somewhat surprised to see the principals singing with lyric sheets during one full company number - but thankfully it was just the once!  

The directors for this show, David Gallagher and Janet Grime, utilised the space and demonstrated their experience and knowledge of this endearing and much celebrated artform with aplomb - tendering a fluid and well-presented production. Having an unrecognisable title for a pantomime was certainly a gamble in itself but one which has ultimately paid off and is a title I’ll definitely be recommending groups to investigate.

With this being my first visit to St Cuthbert’s ADS and being a show I knew nothing about, aside its title, I wasn’t quite sure what I’d be walking into but ‘Adventure In Pantoland’ is something different and refreshing whilst still celebrating and paying homage to the traditional.

 A very enjoyable afternoon, thank you!