Babes in the Wood

Date 11th December 2021
Society Waterloo & Crosby Theatre Company
Venue Bootle Town Hall, Oriel Road, Bootle, Merseyside
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Nicci Henshaw - Linda Hansen (Assistant Director)
Musical Director Annie Dickinson MBE
Choreographer Sarah Henchskelt


Author: Jim Briscoe

Babes in the Wood a pantomime performed by Waterloo & Crosby Theatre Company, at Bootle Town Hall, Oriel Road, Bootle, Merseyside on Saturday, 11th December 2021.

Leo Appleton wrote this version of ‘Babes in the Wood’ which was updated by Nicci Henshaw (Director).  A traditional pantomime which tells the story of ‘Jack and Jill’ and their quest to protect their lucky pendants which they believe will allow them, someday, to rule over the kingdom of ‘Happilyeveraftershire’.  Evil Baron Hardaker and his two cronies ‘Smash and Grab’ have other ideas; they make plans to kidnap Jack and Jill and steal their pendants!  With help from Dame Trott, Marion and others, could our heroes… Robin Hood and his Merry Men do something about this… can they ensure good will overcome evil?

It has been almost two years to the day since I last attended Bootle Town Hall to watch Waterloo and Crosby Theatre Company perform their pantomime, Dick Whittington. So, it was great to be back and see Bootle Town Hall packed to the rafters! The ‘buzz’ from the audience was tangible and you could just tell that everyone present was thrilled to back to see live theatre again… we were not to be disappointed!

Those past two years have been testing times for both Professional and Amateur Theatre and with Covid still hanging around to contemplate staging a production would be a true a leap of faith.  The Production Team of Nicci Henshaw (Director), Linda Hansen (Assistant Director), Choreographer Sarah Henchskelt and Society Pianist Annie Dickinson MBE should be congratulated for taking that ‘leap’ and getting this pantomime to stage. I know for a fact that they had to overcome many, many problems thrown at them… Ladies those headaches, heartaches and efforts paid off… job well done!  

The Production Team had assembled an energetic and enthusiastic cast of around thirty adults and young people!  At this point in all my reviews, I start to identify the stand out performances!  But, for the first time ever, I am not really sure I can or I should!  Why… because, for me, this was a textbook team performance!  Every cast member on that stage gave of their best, they all added something to the production, each created a believable character and supported the others ever so well!  There were no stars… just actors having the time of their lives, with friends, in front of a live audience and you can’t ask for more!  So, to start saying someone was better than someone else, would, in my mind, be wrong!

The castJoanne Dorrity played ‘Robin Hood’; Aimee Rigby played ‘Marion’, Rosie Shields played ‘Dame Trott’; Brian Tubb played ‘The Grand Old Duke of York’; Matthew Thompson played ‘Hapless Prince Harry’; Tommy Austin played ‘Jack’; Heidi Saunders played ‘Jill’; Steve Little played ‘Baron Hardaker’; Poppie Saunders played ‘Smash’, Raphaela Thacker played ‘Grab’; Linda Hansen played ‘Fairy Christmas’; Robin Leyland played ‘Friar Tuck’; Jason Sinclair played ‘Little John’. The ‘Merry Men’: Emily Farrington, Joseph Ramsay, Olivia Williams, Simon Rice and Louie Jones. The ‘Children Chorus’ included Alexis Smith, Hannah Thompson, Matilda Dorrity, Phoebe Dorrity, Chloe Shildhauser, Fazzie White, Olivia Williams, Jessica Dearden, Zerrin Bentham and Lois Woodhouse. The ‘Amazon Women’: Abigail Hampton, Carolyn Townley, Nicole Rooney, Charlotte Ropson and Jane Bienias. (A number of the cast members were included in more than one group and took more than one part)

I did say that I would not be selecting favourites and I’m not, but I do feel it would be remiss of me not to make special mention of a young lady who did not have a principal role, in fact the Cast List shows her three times… in ‘Amazon Woman’, ‘Children’s Chorus’ and as ‘Dance Captain’… her name Alice Melling. Whenever or wherever Alice was on stage, her stage presence was amazing!  Whether front and centre or on the back row she was never without a smile, every movement was expressed to its full potential, from her first entrance, it was so obvious that she was going to make the most of every minute on that stage... be ever so proud young lady, we could all learn something from this performance!

Staging…. a small stage with small wing space, means the staging and changes have to be slick and spot on and they were!  We had some great backdrops, some great sets and props, which all worked well and enhanced this production so much. Congrats to Colin Wilson (Stage Manager) and his backstage team of Heather and Jason Sinclair, Georgia Wilson and Chris Bell… well done guys, great job!

Lighting under the watchful eye of Georgie Wilson and Nathaniel Sinclair was minimal but effective; if I were to be picky… the follow spots did have a few issues, but nothing that spoiled the performance!   The Sound was provided SSDU Events UK.  Bootle Town Hall can prove a challenge for sound engineers and yes there were a few issues, but again nothing major and nothing that detracted from the overall production.

Costumes…. were picture-perfect!  Waterloo and Crosby TC are always blessed with amazing costumes, thanks to the ever so talented Linda Hansen, who, not only costumed this show, but acted as Assistant Director and who took on a ‘principal role’ as Fairy Christmas… Congrats Linda, as always outrageous!

Matrons… to allow children and young people to perform in any production, the need for Matrons is essential… so a shout out to Louise Dearden (Matron Co-ordinator) and her team for their dedication and commitment to ensure that these young people have a chance to perform!

So, if you are to base the success on the reactions of the audience, before, during and after the performance, then I am left in no doubt that this pantomime was a success! As I said previously, the society’s loyal audience were ready for this performance even before the curtain opened, the anticipation was tangible!  Throughout the performance the cast were generously rewarded with cheers and applause and at the finale and as we left the theatre, the acclaim and comments made by both adult and child were such, that there was little or no doubt that everyone present had thoroughly enjoyed themselves…. Well done, guys!

Thank you so much for inviting my wife and I, for your warm welcome, your hospitality throughout and for allowing me to speak with the cast at the end of the performance… really means a lot!  Great atmosphere, great afternoon, cannot wait to see your youngsters performing Matilda in July. To each and every one, have a great Christmas and let us hope and pray that we can gather again in the New Year and celebrate again what we all love – Amateur Theatre!

Stay safe, keep well..

Jim Briscoe
District 6 Rep