Date 27th January 2024
Society Woodchurch Players
Venue Woodchurch Village Hall
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Mike Headling & Kim Parmee
Musical Director Mike Headling
Written By Alan P Frayn


Author: Anne Lawson

The audience was in good voice and immediately responded to ‘Ah So’ from Wishee Washee’s entrances played by Daisy Fermor – as described I’m back as the village idiot assures us it’s 100% due to ‘amazing acting abilities’. A good, lively, and funny part played with confidence. No Hankey Pankey Mother Widow Twankey number three Dame with Bryan Deverell stepping into this role comfortably enjoying his delivery. Many predictable jokes and donning some great frocks.  Great scene with Wishee getting into the washing machine, mangled and shrunk into Mini Wishee Washee a charming Amelia Lee, a scene really well executed.

The other member of the family of course was hero Aladdin, not too keen on work and of course immediately falling for the Princess Mandarin daughter of the strict Empress. Catherine Sales' third panto, taking on her the biggest role to date with ease – Aladdin always nicely getting away with skiving but clever enough to eventually become rich enough to marry the Princess with royal approval. Now we come to the baddie of the piece – once more Robin Smith was to be booed as a menacing black bearded Abanazar determined to get his hands on the most magical of lamps I’ve ever had the pleasure to rub – with actual smoke emerging from its spout! Naturally,  the Genie of the Lamp appears and Chris Priest presented himself in this role with huge energy and comedy in both song and script after his absence of 15 years producing some lyrical belters. After Abanazar’s evil using brightly lit staff banging and bejewelled ring Aladdin needed some magical assistance and this came in the form of a confident young Spirit beautifully performed with conviction namely Felicity Eldridge –  I’m sure we will be seeing a lot more of her.

Isobelle Stevens portrayed an elegant young princess Mandarin partnering Aladdin who made a happy couple, and with the aid of her maid So-Shy another first principal role for Claire Dowdeswell. Comedy double act came in the form Woodchurch’s Ant and Dec - police constables Yu-Dun-Wong - James Perkins and Hu-Dun-Dong with the usual jokes with such names! Hu-Dun-Pong was read in by the Director himself this afternoon due to Brannan Cowley being taken sick – Mike had the entry action of ‘up two three four’ well in hand, wielded his truncheon and flashing his lights with perfect nee-nors! The Empress of Peking carried out an air of authority softening in the end beautifully characterised by experienced in musical theatre Sheila Ross wearing a brilliant Manchu style headdress. Cameo parts were well cast and the members of the chorus and dancers delighted.

Choice of musical numbers was spot on under the musical direction of Mike, all projecting your lyrics, lines and performing delightful routines. The sing along song with the drop-down screen helping us went well to the tune of ‘Show me the Way to Amerillo’ and we learned how to use a Brillo pad. Great fun.

Costumes perfect provided by the wardrobe team –  styles, material colours, and accessories with extra Chinese themes – kimono style dresses, the chorus Tang style jackets with frog fastenings and matching pants and caps, and the authentic looking parasols  and the executioner’s coolie hat for example. Hair styles including plaits a good, detailed look. The scenes were colourful, well designed and elaborately detailed by the team of set makers together with first rate props. We travelled from old Peking to the Palace Gardens Twankey’s Takeaway, A La Din Cave, taken on a magical carpet flight to Egypt, to Abanazar’s Lair and back. Exciting special effects and between Tim Nolan and Eliot they certainly went to town. Magic was in abundance with puffs, flashes, colour, confetti. Well cued throughout for both lighting and sound. All tied together with Mike and Kim at the helm producing a  magical afternoon.