Alice in Wonderland (Panto)

Date 2nd February 2019
Society Torpoint Players
Venue Torpoint Town Hall
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Lynn Rawcliffe and Laura Tamblin
Musical Director Betty Begbie
Choreographer Lesley Brown

Report

Author: Joshua Clarke

Alice in Wonderland (Panto)  

Date

2nd February 2019

Society

Torpoint Players

Venue

Torpoint Town Hall

Type of Production

Pantomime

Director

Lynn Rawcliffe and Laura Tamblin

Musical Director

Betty Begbie

Choreographer

Lesley Brown

 

Report

The short run of three performances afforded to this production of a pantomime rendering of Alice in Wonderland by the Torpoint Players went some way to ensuring a near full house on this Saturday evening. It is only a shame that not more people had the opportunity to enjoy the evening’s entertainment provided by the group and that the hard work of debut directorial pair Laura Tamblin and Lynn Rawcliffe was over so quickly! The company ensured a warm welcome to the theatre for all audience members, and the sense of genuine community spirit and affection permeated throughout the evening.

The production, as with Lewis Caroll’s original masterpiece, ensured a wide range of exuberantly-drawn character parts, and first special mention must go here to the costume department of Betty Begbie (doubling as musical director), Gill Prideaux, Sharron Dudman and Doreen Jackson, whose combinations of colours, shapes and sizes contributed greatly to the overall caricatured aesthetic. Their work on dressing the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts’ army of cards, in particular, was notable. Indeed, the lighting work of Andy Martin also played a prominent part, with the famous appearance of the Cheshire Cat designed and executed with skill.

Indeed, this was a production replete with cameos and memorable moments, giving opportunity for the entire cast to exert their own influence on the performance. Pat Vanderwolf’s White Rabbit was an early hit, demonstrating a franticness quite befitting the role, and Alice herself, played sensitively by Maddie Binney, was an understated and consistent on-stage presence throughout. Effective contrast, appropriate for the pantomime genre, was provided by Gill Saunders’ perenially angry and despotically bloodthirsty Queen of Hearts, whose first entrance cut through the expected jollity and light-heartedness of the production’s opening minutes. Lesley Brown (King of Hearts and Cheshire Cat) showed astute stagecraft and awareness as the downtrodden foil. 

With the unenviable job of holding together a performance filled with intentional tomfoolery and chaos, the role of panto dame is not for the faint-hearted, but Tracy Peebles did a magnificent job as Dame Millicent (‘being a woman playing a man pretending to be a woman’). Her charisma made her a favourite, and it became increasingly clear that her attentiveness to the happenings both on and off stage would allow the audience to relax as she orchestrated the anarchic episodes. Similarly, the double-act of Rachel Kenhard and Karen Hemmings as Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee was on the money each time they appeared, deriving humour from their scenes even beyond their ingeniously-crafted costumes. Kenhard’s bolshie Tweedle-Dum, combined with her ever-reacting expressions, was eminently watchable. Ruby Smale as the Princess of Hearts brought genuine class to the production, with her musical numbers being among the most memorable aspects – her vocals were delivered confidently, and her performance through song makes her a talent to track for the future. 

All of the expected conventions and tropes of panto were present, with audience participation a-plenty, ably led by Tom Barker’s persistent and ever-enthusiastic Joker, and booing and hissing well-borne by the Knave of Spades, played by Mike Adams. Cream pies, light sabre duels, and a suitable quantity of local references made this panto fit for all ages, as it should be, and it was pleasing to see confident performances from other younger members of the cast which should stand the company in good stead. With so few performances scheduled, it is forgivable that some of the choreography sometimes went awry, though with some clearly able younger dancers this particular area may well develop in future years. The company were supportive of one another on stage, helping each other out when needed, and bringing the audience into the haphazard fun of pantomime.  

Joshua Clarke (sub)

for Gareth Davies

NODA SW District 3