Dick Whittington

Date 8th February 2020
Society Saxilby Drama Circle
Venue Saxilby Village Hall
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Richard Kort
Musical Director JanetPick
Producer Anne Bridge

Report

Author: Andrew Key

It can be so off putting for a Company, having the start of a performance delayed by circumstances beyond anyone’s control. But that’s just what happened at Saxilby. A medical emergency in the audience was handled efficiently by the St John’s Ambulance personnel in attendance and after a delay of about 25 minutes, the show could begin. This is a timely lesson perhaps for all societies to consider First Aid requirements at their venue. Fortunately, at Saxilby, they had it covered.

After nearly half an hour of waiting any cast could suffer a shaky start, but this was not the case on Saturday. I loved the use of the glitter ball to help transport us all to pantoland one more time, the upbeat music soon lifting our mood.

Richard Kort, Director, fresh from playing in professional panto himself, had brought the show together in just eight weeks. And what a concentrated effort from everyone this must have meant. But there was a real sense of being a ‘team’ amongst the cast as everyone worked so well together before a very appreciative audience.

Firstly, ‘Hello-o-o-o-‘ to Rachel Mitchell as Fairy Bowbells who, throughout, had a secure grasp of her rhyming, well timed lines, moving the story along, with lots of local and topical references woven in. Rachel’s sweet singing was a delight, especially her ‘Frozen’ number later on at Highgate Hill. I liked the use of the gauze for this with Dick being appointed Lord Mayor during the dream sequence.  Contrasting the Fairy so well was Scott Ward as the dastardly King Rat. I loved his ‘Steampunk-esque, crossed with the sewer’ costume and stunning tail. Scott worked the audience wonderfully and his real evil was beautifully mirrored by his conversion to all things good at the end. I enjoyed the interactions between King Rat and the Fairy, who Ratty rather ungraciously referred to as ‘Little Miss Saxilby 1972.’ And his threat to destroy London – ‘it’ll look worse than Gainsborough by the time I’m done.’

The title part of Dick Whittington was played by Chloe Thurston, who really mastered the challenging modern songs. Her singing voice was beautiful and balanced well, volume wise,  with the music after the first few bars of her opening number ‘Wake Up!’ Alice of course was Dick’s love interest, played so believably by Lucy Hadjoudj. Lucy was bright and full of energy throughout and her scenes with Chloe were sensitively played out. Lovely duets too.

Polished dancing and singing from both the adult and junior chorus all through the Show too. Well done especially to the children who really seemed to be enjoying themselves, not an easy thing to portray when concentrating on all those moves. Choreography by Janet Pick was varied and adapted well to the various scenes of the Show.

Idle Jack (Mark Stoneham) made his entrance on a scooter and was soon everyone’s friend as he had us all guarding his present for Alice, positioned on a ‘conveniently placed plinth’. I loved Jack’s ‘Rat Nav’ too. Mark played this much loved character with a touch of gentle sarcasm that went down well. My favourite scene with Jack though was the bit near the end when selected children come up on stage. Having done this myself many times over the years I know how challenging it can be. You never know what’s going to happen next. But Mark was just a natural with them – there were some lovely ad libs and he got the very best out of all three of the volunteers. It was a delight to watch. Truly, well done Mark.

Contrasting with Mark’s gentle sarcasm through the panto was the in-your-face, larger than life, ‘bloke in a dress’, that was our Dame. Ian Atkinson played one of my favourite Dame parts – Sarah the Cook who really perhaps can’t (cook). Famous for her dumplings, despite being horrible to Jack, Ian was the audience’s friend – something that is vital if you are going to pull this iconic role off. Although it may have been ‘time for this sister to find a mister’ Ian coped with rejection well from Glenn and Tom in the audience, before finally finding his paramour. My favourite ad lib from Ian, that fortunately went over all the children’s heads, ‘Can you keep your knees together love, its not Gardener’s World.’

The famous comedy cooking scene with Sarah and Jack was well done – the audience enthusiastically getting involved in kneading Sarah’s balls (dough balls), that were generously ‘moistened’ by the duo on stage via a couple of quite powerful water pistols. I was prodded vigorously in the back by the lady behind, telling me off for not throwing one of the said balls back on stage that had ended up under my chair. And a special touch when Sarah changed wigs whilst being microwaved in the oven.

Paul Bridge’s Alderman (‘much better looking than Boris Johnson’) was a delight. Somewhat unusually for this part, Paul displayed an accomplished ability to act, dance and sing. I particularly enjoyed his singing voice, including his super-cool rapping during the ‘Everybody’ number. ‘I want you on the counter’ he declared to a delighted Sarah, with a twinkle in his eye that the audience loved. As Captain of the Ship in Act Two he led the ‘If I were not aboard this ship’ with gusto. A superbly well rehearsed comedy song by Saxilby - a variant of which is performed every year in the London Palladium panto, that usually kick starts my season of pantos in December. The only way that the Saxilby Drama Circle could have improved it even more would perhaps to have had the main characters singing more than one verse each, having to manically swap places to do so. But nevertheless, a real highlight of the evening.

And so to Tommy the Cat. Was there ever a more smiley cat? And how many ways is there to say ‘Meow’? Well done to Bridie Bear for staying in character for every second of the show. The children loved Tommy.

And the last of the main characters was David Makepeace’s Sultan who rewarded Dick and his cat for saving his kingdom from the rats. A super cool Sultan in a brightly designed palace (loved the blow up palm trees).

David Ridout’s sound plot was very well executed – timed to precision, especially during the hypnosis scene. The props and set were well designed and appropriate, built by a team of people. I particularly liked the hessian on the side flats of the ship. Simple but very effective. And the oven in Sarah’s kitchen. A good idea too to have the double doors into the ship, used well by all the cast. The set was complemented well with a suitable lighting plot by Al Barnsley and I enjoyed the projection of the storm.

Costumes were very good too and entirely fitting for the characters. Well done ladies. Sarah’s swimming costume was a masterpiece. The colour coordinated red and gold finale was stunning.

So congratulations to Director Richard Kort and Producer Anne Bridge for pulling off a polished production in such a short space of time. If you haven’t yet been to see the panto, there’s more opportunities to book your tickets for this next weekend. You won’t be disappointed. A super village panto where the audience play a vital part too. Oh yes they do!

 

Andrew Key