Alice - The Panto
2nd February 2018
Draycott Memorial Hall
Type of Production
Poppy Batten, Hannah O'Neill & Allie White
Author: Leigh Conley
Firstly, I have to say that a visit to Draycott Village Hall is fast becoming a highlight of my Noda calendar. I love the way that you guys are not afraid to try something different, with “The Gut Girls” and “On Air” being perfect examples of trying something unusual and out of the box. It’s fair to say that Mendip Players have continued this trend with “Alice – The Panto”, adapted from a script by Limelight Scripts. This story matched the illogical nature of the original tales and had some pretty unusual and psychedelic sections. As seems to be the norm for most pantos, the jokes in the script were very hit and miss but, the near the knuckle jokes went down very well with the audience and were incredibly funny.
The curtain opened (eventually) to reveal a very basic set. The scenes were set up with simple backdrops and the occasional prop. This was a good way to set scenes and matched the abstract nature of the show, it also allowed for swift and smooth scene changes. The lighting by Jean; Roger; Steve; Chris and Jerry was very straightforward but really worked well to enhance the production as did the sound and SFX by Rob Elliott.
The wardrobe; hair and make-up all looked effective and worked well together and everybody had a really well defined look that matched their individual characters perfectly and all the costumes looked great. Particularly impressive was the look of Alice; Jojo; The Knave of Spades and The Queen of Hearts.
The songs were interesting and a real mix of oldies, newies and panto favourites. Using backing tracks makes perfect sense for a pantomime, but it did seem an odd choice to have some of the actors lip-syncing, instead of actually singing the songs – especially the adult performers.
The choreography by Poppy Batten, Hannah O’Neill and Allie White was good and all the dances were performed well, especially by the children who were so good and stole many scenes. Hats off to the young lad who played the spider (Austen Denning?), who showed true professionalism battling on whilst his arms got caught up in his antenna. With these sort of skills on show, it’s safe to say that I can look forward to visiting some productions performed by the planned “Mendip Youth” soon. Another dancing highlight was performed by Sarah Stott as the butterfly, a very attractive and elegant dance routine, that was performed well.
As previously mentioned, the story followed Alice’s tale and many of the elements from the book were brought to the stage with skill. Specific highlights included the Caterpillar, the Cheshire Cat and a very madcap Mad Hatters Tea Party, with the most adorable Dormouse in Hazel Batten. I can’t say that I have read Alice’s Adventures much so I may be wrong but, I don’t recall many 60’s hippies in the 19th century book! Whether they were there or not, they made a funny addition to the play, as did Bea Cook as the Wizard and Marianne Pryor as the SatNav (little known fact that SatNavs and Tom Toms were incredibly popular during the late 1800’s).
It was nice to see such a diverse range of ages on the stage and it is always lovely to see younger actors getting the opportunity to work alongside more experienced thespians, there was a real feel of team work and camaraderie on display, especially after the show and it is always lovely to see a group work well together. By your own admission, many of the actors were a little inexperienced at being on the stage, and unfortunately this showed a few times, especially when things didn’t go quite to plan for example dodgy curtains and having more than a little help from Elaine Tucker as the prompt, more seasoned actors would have made a joke or taken the mick a little to ease the tension but, that all comes with experience and time. However, Libby Astle as Jojo; Jeff Astle as Dame Millicent; Hannah O’Neill as Alice and Marianne Pryor as SatNav all showed flashes of panto brilliance throughout the production and with a little more experience and confidence all showed they have the potential to really flourish in future productions.
As always, with any show, there are those few that really shine and this production was no different. Keith Batten and Dan Ward worked very well together as Tweedle’s Dum and Dee and their “Duel” was incredibly funny. Also impressive was Bethany Thomas as the torture-obsessed Corporal, who really made the most of her little cameo role, without feeling the need to ham it up. This is of course the direct opposite of Ash Jones, who gloriously hammed it up for his part as The Knave of Hearts. Although, the star of the show had to be Tim Cook as the under-the-thumb King of Hearts, Tim was incredibly funny and got the audience feeling sorry for him from the get-go.
Overall, this was probably not the most polished pantomime I have seen but, it was definitely the funniest. I genuinely loved the show, flaws and all, and literally had tears in my eyes during the first act (due to laughing – before you panic). Well done to Allie White, parts of this production were rude, parts were psychedelic and parts were just darn right bonkers but together it just worked and made a really fun evening. Still don’t like the chairs though!