Little Red Riding Hood & The Secret Key

Date 11th January 2014
Society Ace Theatre Group
Venue Marven Centre, Sawston, Cambridge
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Carol Wratten
Musical Director Valerie Catton
Choreographer Carol Wratten


Author: Sue Hartwell NODA East District 7 Representative

The Marven Centre was filled to capacity for the first performance of Ace Theatre Group's annual pantomime.  For this special 20th Anniversary production, Carol Wratten used her considerable directing and choreography skills to weave together a magical story around many of the fairy tale and storybook characters that have appeared in her pantomimes over the past two decades.

The plot centres around Little Red Riding Hood, her Grandma, Hilda Hubbard and a secret key, sent by Grandma's friend Widow Twankey for safe-keeping.  The key has magical powers to gain entry to pantoland and the Wicked Fairy wants it, so she employs the Bad Wolf to steal it. Along the way, we encounter Robin Hood, Sinbad the Sailor and witness the christening of Prince Charming and Princess Grace's baby daughter, Beauty, where the Wicked Fairy casts her spell.  But the Good Fairy Lilac wins in the end and after their many adventures, Little Red Riding Hood and Grandma arrive home safely, the Bad Wolf vanquished and Grandma happily wedded to Woodcutter Sam.  Helping us all keep up with the plot, there are regular news up-dates from the local radio station's roving reporters.

This production had all the elements of a fun-filled family panto, with so many delightful characters, excellent costumes, good scenery, sound effects and lighting plot.  The standard of the dancing and singing was a credit to the production team and provided many memorable moments.  It was pure joy to listen to the well-chosen vocal numbers, with piano and percussion accompaniment provided by Valerie Catton and Mick Hillberry.  A good mix of classical and well-known standards were provided by backing tracks for the delightfully varied dance rountines which, just occasionally, were a little delayed, waiting for the music to begin.

Amongst the younger cast members, Phoebe Poulter-Kerry as the Good Fairy Lilac gave an oustanding performance, the ballet sequence in the christening scene to the music from Swan Lake spellbinding.  Thomas Gammon, Sian Redgewell and Sophia Fratteroli were confident in their roles as the roving reporters and Amy Gill as Little Red Riding Hood, was delightful.  And what talent there was amongst the senior cast members, too!  Damon Driver as Wolfie and Zara Walwyn as Morag the Wicked Fairy, were deliciously, but comically, evil. Plenty of action from Ben Chamberlain as Robin Hood and Kirsty Wright as Little John, who also delighted us with her vocal number A Whole New World in her cameo appearance as Aladdin.  Another fine performer, Vanessa Wood, inspired us with her role as Sinbad, her rendition of The Blessing a lovely calming interlude, following the high-energy acrobatic dance routine on the deck of The Silver Star!

Nina Downing was suitably motherly in her role as Grandma Hubbard, well supported by Andy Chamberlain as her loving friend Woodcutter Sam.  Nicely played cameo roles as Lady and Lord Potty were provided by Christine Graham and Martin Redgewell, with Ali Wright as Postman Pat (without the cat!).  Theresa Wallman as Prince Charming, used her talents as both a singer and tap dancer to good effect and Judith Wright portrayed a jovial Friar Tuck.

Other characters were played by Fai Downing as Little Miss Muffet and Gretel, Niamh Downing as Goldilocks, Jade Ball as Cinderella and Lucy Barton as Buttons.  Also joining in the fun were Amelia Chapman as Jack (Beanstalk) Trotter, Josh Salter-Poole as Hansel, Alex Ball as Dick Whittington, Karen Salter-Poole as Princess Grace, Wendy Redgewell as Doris Button and last, but by no means least, Robin Poulter, as co-founder of the group, in a guest appearance as Widow Twankey!

A delightful and enjoyable afternoon's entertainment.  Well done!