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Dick Whittington

Date

3rd February 2018

Society

Polden Productions

Venue

Edington Village Hall

Type of Production

Pantomime

Director

Ros Dolding & Carol Applegate-Day

Musical Director

Ros Dolding

Choreographer

Carol Applegate-Day

Report

Author: Leigh Conley

Firstly, what a pleasure to be able to return to Polden Productions after such a long time.  I am always impressed by the way you make the most out of, what seems, a relatively small space and I was very interested to see what you would do with this production.

The curtain opened to reveal a basic set.  The scenes were set up with simple backdrops and the occasional prop, which worked well to keep the pace of the show moving.  Although the sets were simple in construction they all looked suitably “panto-like” and King Rats lair and Fitzwarren’s Store looked very impressive. 

The wardrobe; hair and make-up all looked effective and worked well together, every character was well defined and the costumes were great and very colourful.  King Rats costume and make-up was especially impressive.  It was also good to see that the chorus members all had similar costumes to each other which gave a really well defined feel to the show.  Well done to Anne Mason and Jane Grearson, some real hard work must have gone into this production.  All the costumes certainly fitted the “era”, which is why it was a shame that one of the cast members was wearing a modern wrist watch for their first entrance!

Every company that you visit have their own strengths and Polden’s definitely has to be the music, Ros Dolding manages to produce a stunning sound from a simple three-piece band, which really helped give this production an extra level.  The songs were really well sung and were a good mix of oldies, newies and panto favourites. 

The choreography by Carol Applegate-Day was good and made the most of the small stage, without ever making it look over-crowded or congested.  All the dancers worked well together and nearly everyone was synchronised.  Even with many performers on the stage Sarah Burne always seemed to stand out, all her moves were elegant and precise and I would not be surprised if she had had some form of ballet or dance training.  It was nice to see such a mix of ages in the pantomime and the junior chorus managed to show that they were just as good as their more experienced counterparts.  The skill level on show by the younger members of the cast, suggests that the forthcoming youth production of Grease, should be a show to look out for.

The play followed Dick Whittington’s story from immigrant to Lord Mayor, taking in many locations along the way.  The comedy in the script, written by Alan Frayn, was a bit hit and miss and some of the jokes on the night I visited, did fall a little flat, although this could have also have been due to some of the delivery.  However, all the jokes in King Rat’s sections were incredibly funny and it is always good to have some ruder jokes, a little bit of blue for the mum’s and dad’s.  The script itself, did a very good job of telling the Dick Whittington story and all the elements for a panto script were there including some behind you; some slapstick and the obligatory cream pie scene, although this last one did seem a little shoe-horned in.  I was particularly impressed with the “Under The Sea” scene, effectively a film made of the main cast under the sea and projected onto the movie screen.  This was a really unique idea and it is always great to see a society do something different, unfortunately this section did go on a little long and if you include the fact that the projector screen descended and ascended very slowly, then there were a few fidgety bottoms appearing around me.  It was also interesting to see that Dame Dolly had mysteriously grown a goatee whilst under the sea and I wasn’t really sure if Tom the Cat under the sea, was the same Tom the Cat over the sea.  Just a few things to think about if you choose to try this idea again.

Jo Lendon made a very likeable Dick Whittington and had some lovely moments opposite Maria Bagatelas as Alice, she also worked well with the young Emily Murray as Tom the Cat.  Pete Hawkins, who was incredible in Anything Goes, seemed a little uncomfortable in the role of Dolly Dumpling most of the time, but every now and then he seemed to relax and really enjoy it and those times really showed in his performance.  Jack Squire played a likeable Idle Jack but, as with Pete, he seemed a little uncomfortable in the role.  However, when Jack was dealing with the audience during the community song he showed a natural flair for adlibbing and I wonder if both Pete and Jack would have benefitted from being allowed to venture off the script occasionally.  Tom Peppard played Scupper, again Tom tried his best but many of his joke timings were off and he seemed to be delivering all his lines to the audience.  Shelia Tees played a good Fairy, getting the audience behind her from the beginning, and although the constant bell noise that accompanied her was good for effect, it was rather loud and it was hard to catch every word.

However, in any production there are always those performers who really shine on the night and both Steve Lutkins and Edwin King, as Alderman Fitzwarren and Captain Cuttlefish, both showed that they fully understand pantomime humour and how to work an audience and the scenes these guys were in, were always fun to watch.  However, massive congratulations to Mike Taylor who played King Rat.  Mike was fantastic in the role and he completely knew how to work an audience, he insulted us; shouted at us and was rude to us and we loved it!  Mike is such a talent and easily the best pantomime performer that I have ever seen, even including professional productions. 

Overall, this was an enjoyable production that was really elevated by some performers who knew how to play pantomime and an expert who could teach others.  Music was superb and the atmosphere was lovely and I had a good time, thank you.