Kidnapped! the panto

Date 19th November 2016
Society Double Act Drama Group
Venue Corfe Castle Village Hall
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Peter Smith

Report

Author: Sylvia Coates

~~With panto having been around for rather a long time, and most people having seen more than a few of them, it’s not always easy to spring a surprise on the audience, but Double Act’s home-grown production of ‘Kidnapped, the Panto’ was a revelation from start to finish.  Director Peter Smith’s adaptation of the novel was witty and entertaining, keeping the storyline strong and the action moving along, whilst retaining the essentials of the original novel.  R.L. Stevenson would recognise his story in this surprisingly good production, although whether he would approve might be a different matter!  Author-Director Peter Smith’s own words describe it best: ‘This is a fun filled family panto that follows young David Balfour on a rip-roaring riotous rollicking romp around the heather clad Scottish Highlands to bring to life an epic tale of love, betrayal, quests, shipwreck, Gaelic magic, danger, elves & wizards, pursuit, Nessie, who-dun-it, dodgy accents and of course - Kidnapping!’ Mr Smith’s claim that this script was many years in the writing would appear to be true and certainly to have paid off.  His further claim that the show contains ‘anything else remotely Scottish that might add to the fun and laughter’ is equally true.
Unsurprisingly set in Scotland, the show opens with a spoof on Macbeth’s three witches – Heggity, Peggity and Ethel (Ann Gaudin, Steve Hills, Peter Smith) – in a comical yet atmospheric introduction to the story of young David Balfour. 
Next, accompanied by the theme to Dr Finlay’s Casebook, appears the be-tartanned Fairy, in the guise of Ghillie Du Shortbread, a Scottish elf (Linda Coulson), who, as narrator, played a major and invaluable part in binding the show together.
The villain of the piece is Ebenezer Balfour, the old and dastardly wicked uncle of young David Balfour, who, like Aladdin’s Abanazar, schemes and plots the hero’s downfall.  Dougal Dixon plays the villain very convincingly for someone who ‘is taking part under protest and against his better judgement’ (and then goes on to play a further four characters).
~~Catriona MacGregor Drummond (Laird Dick’s Daughter) is played sweetly by Lily Macbeth, and Davie Balfour is strongly played by Kieran Bradbury.  Their duet of the old Freddie and the Dreamers hit ‘You Were Made for Me’ kept the mood light and the audience involved, although we would like to have heard more of Catriona’s pleasant singing voice, so do be more confident in projecting the song to the audience.  A nicely-matched young couple.
Davie is befriended by Alan Breck, nicely played by Dominic Whittle, who made a sterling (Stirling?) attempt to maintain his Scottish accent throughout.
The comedy duo of MacIn’tosh and MacA’dees  (Judith Jenkins and Mike Spinney) were the not-so-deadly henchmen, who blundered their way through the plot, adding to the mayhem and generally failing to achieve any of their goals.  Judith Jenkins kept them on the right track.
This panto was full of interesting and colourful characters, including: tea-shop owner Mistress Meg (Paulette Hills) who bears a striking similarity to Mystic Meg and was great fun; ship’s Captain Hoseason (Peter Smith); a cheery Bosun (Finley Caldow); Laird Dick (Marion Carle’); Clan Chieftain Jimmy Stewart (Steve Hills); Rankeiller the lawyer, Hector MacLean  a  crofter, Red Fox a land agent and Chieftain Cluny MacPhearson all being played by the (apparently) reticent Dougal Dixon; and there was even a royal contingent with Bonnie Prince Charlie aka Barry Stocks.  Cherry and Holly Smith did a good job of animating Aberdeen Agnes the Highland Cow, ensuring that she had character and charm and properly choreographing the steps for the counting skit – well done.
The Chorus danced well at their first entrance, sang ‘Donald Where’s Your Troosers?’ with gusto, and again for ‘Charlie is My Darling’ with ‘I Would Walk 500 miles’ as another crowd-pleaser.  The community song would have been more effective if it was more widely known. There were opportunities for comedy at every turn, with the money gag, ‘scissors, paper, stone (and fire as an extra option), and plenty of topical jokes, with Trump, Sturgeon and Salmond all receiving a mention.
Particularly impressive in this production was the number and quality of in-house props and effects, all made by the creative design and construction team of Mike Spinney, Dougal and Jean Dixon and Peter Smith.  The cow’s head was excellent; the use of shadow puppets and projection for the stairs made a real impact; puppets and props, including Nessie, for the sea-going scenes were delightful; there was a low-flying haggis, a collapsing table, a fluffy creature called Spotty, props for the Highland games and, inevitably, a panto spider.  The set was utilised in every way possible in a village hall, with trapdoors, pop-holes and projections.
A few scraps of advice: raise energy levels in the show as a whole, as this would increase the vocal output in songs and dialogue, assist with remembering the lines and increase the involvement of the audience;  in the same vein, I would encourage the actors to play outwards rather than to the stage, so that they can share their story more fully with the audience; consider whether the broad Scottish accent is necessary throughout the play – it might be better to pull it back a little after the first scene or two; and finally, handle props candles as though they have real flames.
‘Kidnapped’ is a most enjoyable show, in the best tradition of home-grown village panto.  Congratulations to Peter Smith, the Company and the backstage team at Double Act.  An excellent evening, thank you.