Frankenstein the Panto

Date 14th December 2012
Society Wilburton Theatre Group
Venue St Peter's Hall Wilburton
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Alan Marston
Musical Director Tim Brown
Choreographer Emily Starr


Author: Julie Petrucci

I have always been one for traditional pantomimes so I was a bit apprehensive about seeing this one: “Frankenstein the Panto” – really?  My apprehension was unfounded as this show had all the traditional panto ingredients, a principal boy and girl, a couple of baddies, a dame and a comic plus lots of singing and dancing, colourful costumes, loud bangs and a cast full of enthusiasm.

Right after the opening number we found ourselves in the more-than-capable hands of Emily Starr (Frank N Stein) who had us ‘on-side’ within minutes of the curtains parting to reveal an excellent set.  This was a great performance and top marks to the make-up team for the transformation from bouncy inn cleaner to the bolt-necked Frankenstein.

Oppressed in true Cinderella-style by the money-grabbing Herr and Frau Pumpernickle (Tim Brown and Becky Everitt), we had a nice performance from Nicole Drury as orphan Heidi.  Enter the Prince (Sarah Bebbington) in confident thigh-slapping style and Heidi was love-struck. Unfortunately for Heidi, Miss Nelly – doo dah doo dah doo dah dah doo doo: sorry you had to be there! - turned up with a gaggle of St Trinian-style school girls that no self respecting vampire would have gone near even if they had robbed a blood bank.  These young ladies Abbie Weldon, Grace Kubecka, Bethany Wright, Hannah Ridley and particularly Ellie Tattam, were set on creating havoc, and they did with great enthusiasm, although the tendency to gabble raised its ugly head once or twice.   Mayhem ensued; particularly when the mad Professor Crackpot, a Michael Bentine look-alike (for those who are old enough), in the shape of Tim Bebbington, literally exploded from behind the laboratory door.  An hilarious performance full of corny jokes dealt with confidently.

Enter the vampires Count Dracula (played well by Jacob Wright) and Granula: (Barbara Gray who gave an amusing and comedic performance), set upon kidnapping Heidi.  Not only did they kidnap Heidi but also Kodak her faithful hound and I must commend Jordan Marston on giving such a great doggie performance. 

So everyone set off to rescue Heidi with the help of the audience and their peppermint breath.  In true panto tradition all turned out well in the end thanks to the efforts of Frank N Stein and a quick deference to TV quiz shows and, of course, Heidi got her Prince. 

This is an incredibly technical show and the company technicians rose to the challenges it presented: bit enthusiastic with the smoke machine and a couple of sound cue blips but nothing which caused a problem.  Top marks to Barry Starr for an excellent set design which doubled as the inn and Dracula’s castle.

This production had a female dame in the guise of the exuberant Donna Bright who was great but, as I say, I am a traditionalist where panto is concerned and, whilst taking nothing away from Ms Bright’s excellent performance, I did feel some of the ‘dame jokes’ were lost. 

The programme notes about author David Swann’s Frankenstein the Panto states that “ . . .is an hilarious, action-packed entertainment” which could well have been a hostage to fortune in less enthusiastic hands.  There was a huge amount of unsolicited audience participation and not just from the young cub group down the front, just proving that most of us are still in touch with the child within, especially when it’s panto. 

Congratulations to director Alan Marston and all involved in this production which received a richly deserved warm and enthusiastic reception from the packed audience.

Thank you for inviting me, I had a great time.