Camelot - The Panto

Date 5th December 2018
Society Sparkwell Amateur Theatre Company
Venue Sparkwell Village Hall
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Tim Horton
Musical Director Tim Horton
Choreographer Carole Wilson


Author: Gareth Davies

Sparkwell Amateur Theatre Company (Satco)

Camelot the Panto

As seen by: Gareth Davies on 5th December 2018

Director: Tim Horton

Musical Director: Tim Horton

Choreographer: Carole Wilson

Sparkwell Village Hall

For 2018 SATCo chose to present Ben Crocker's panto version of the beloved story of Camelot and the romance between Arthur and Guinevere, which was a refreshing change from the usual panto offerings and Tim Horton, as Director of this SATCo production, had given the cast plenty of opportunities to create "over the top" characterisations of the various roles, in true panto style.

The townsfolk of Camelot, ruled over by King Uther, are awaiting the arrival of Guinevere, who is betrothed to the King's son, Prince Arthur.  The "baddies" plot is to kidnap Guinevere, imprison her in a castle in the enchanted forest and prevent her from marrying Prince Arthur but, as in all good pantomimes, the "goodies" prevail in the end.

Setting the scene, we first meet the baddies – Freddy Denman, with a confident and polished performance as the evil sorceress, Morgan Le Fay, ably assisted by Niall Shirley, well-characterised as the "not so vicious" Valerin who, according to the "magic" scroll conjured up by Morgan Le Fay, believes he has the right to Guinevere's hand in marriage and is helped and encouraged in his quest by his mum, delightfully played by Lesley Masey, who I remember fondly from last year. Lesley has natural comic timing and I laughed as soon as she entered the scene!

Next, we meet the trio of goodies - reluctant knight Laughalot, a strong and amusing performance here by Tim Horton, who won over the audience and was well-supported by Phil Gibson (excellent again) as the comedy dame, royal nanny Connie Clatterbottom, her costumes suitably outlandish and Aimee Bullen, in her mimed role as Teddy, her facial expressions a joy.  Their scene in the Haunted Hotel was particularly enjoyable, with precision timing and plenty of opportunities for audience participation and a nicely played cameo as the scary Talking Clock by Ian Markus.  


Simon Blades, as King Uther, showed suitable bearing and Sam Jarvis, as Merlin, portrayed well the aging, absent-minded magician.  The scene in his laboratory was well-paced, with good inter-action between the various characters and nice cameos from Katie Pearce, as Nilrem and Benedict Blades, as Dave the Snake.  As a sub-plot, Merlin is trying to perfect the elixir of eternal youth: Tyler Pearce and Harley Watters as the younger Merlins worked well.

Lucy Chapman, as Prince Arthur, is a confident young actress, with good stage presence and she was convincing in her role as the young suitor.  Amy Gibson, in her portrayal of Guinevere, was a little too serious and unsmiling, even in her happiest moments.  Olivia Gibson, as Guinevere's maid Nell was more animated during her brief appearances. I must also mention Gemma Parsons in her role as the only visible half of the duo Marlon and Garlon - the shadowplay was very well done.

The standard of singing was generally good, with the choice of songs befitting the plot.  Scenery, props and costumes were colourful and impressive, adding to the overall visual impact but I did feel, at times, that the performance lacked traditional panto magic because there was too much packed into this script; too many characters, perhaps, and not enough time for the traditional comedy of panto – I wanted to see more of the dame, for example.

Carole Wilson’s choreography for most of the chorus numbers was appropriately devised for this cast of mixed ability, although some members of the cast seemed unsure of their moves.  Consequently, they were seen on several occasions watching others to check their actions and some of the cast also need to learn not to fidget on stage, which can be distracting for the audience, even if they’re upstage they can still be clearly seen! That said, the dance routines were colourful and imaginative, well-rehearsed and amusing - for me, the highlights of this production.

Well done to everyone at SATCo for another successful pantomime – the second I have now seen – and I felt it generally merited a nomination for Best Pantomime in this year’s NODA SW awards. Good luck for that and I look forward to returning for your next ventures in 2019.