Once upon a time...

Date 10th February 2016
Society Melksham Music and Drama
Venue Assembly Hall, Melksham
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Mandy Raikes-May
Musical Director Geoff Mitcham
Choreographer Katie Hodges & Penny Taylor


Author: Dee Way

This was the opening night of the production, and illness had hit the cast, especially the Dame.  This led to some great repartee with the audience, enhancing an evening of fun and laughter that was much enjoyed by all.

The show was both written and directed by Mandy Raikes-May on the theme of superheroes. This was unusual and refreshing, and gave us a very different pantomime to those infused with wicked fairies and fairy godmothers! I did get a little lost with the superhero characters – listing them in the programme would have been helpful. Direction was good, and told the story well and with a great sense of fun, with plenty of cues for boos and hisses! The involvement of the prompt in the action several times became fun.

There was innovation in the staging, too, with the blowing open of a bank vault door while sections of the castle wall showed damage. The cycle/scooter ride around the audience was both fun and chaos, and a novel way to portray a battle between the ‘desirables’ and the ‘despicables’. The change in the banners on the castle kept the scenery simple and effective for the two camps, with cabins added for the village scenes in Act 1 and trees added downstage for Act 2. It would have been good to use wooden chairs in the internal castle scene, to enhance the period feel.

The costumes for this production were stunning to look at, with a good colour mix and red used to emphasise the leading characters in each group. I particularly liked the costumes for Prince Phillip, Poison, for Pong the Putrid, Evil Edna, the Dinosaurs and for Dame Pussy Willow and her cat, Tiddles. All the costumes fitted their characters very well. The choreography of the dance routines was good, if a bit complex at times. A lot of the energetic moves suited the songs well, although at times the very energy of the dance hindered the delivery of the songs. The song “Build this city” was very good.

The technical side of the production was good, simple and effective. The lighting was fairly simple but lit the action well, even for the cycle battle. The use of the follow spot here was good and added to the feeling of chaos. The back of the set at times was lit with orange led lights that gave a lovely sense of warmth. The sound was well enhanced by the microphones out front and above the stage, although it did lead to a patchiness at times when actors were at a distance, such as during the opening and Princess Elizabeth’s duet downstage left. The timing of the sound effects was particularly good.

Recorded music was used to very good effect, especially the Imperial March from ‘Star Wars’ for the Pong the Putrid and the theme for ‘Captain Melksham’. The music supported the singers really well and did not overpower them at all. The performances were good throughout, with Pussy Willow, her cat, Evil Edna and Pong being particularly good.