25th January 2018
Freshfield Hall, Forest Row
Tegan Millard, Samantha Luke, Sally Hannam, Karleen Stevens
Author: Dee Sharpe
Director Gwen Pritchitt wrote that Rapunzel ‘has been a long time favourite since Play Group days’ and she should be proud of directing this jolly pantomime.
It started gently with an opening song and guitar accompaniment by Pete Caruana. This foreshadowed strong singers throughout, particularly Leah Kauffman, and the junior and adult choruses were excellent. Well choreographed numbers included the Beach Boys’ ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice,’ Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ Sister Sledge’s ‘Frankie,’ and particular favourites, ‘I need a Hero’ fabulously performed by all and Abba’s ‘Does your mother know’ with Gracie, Macie (Alex Brooker) and Lacie (Annie Smith) and Prince Frederick (Julie Reilly.)
The sets were a painted meadow with lop-sided castle, the castle interior, painted woodlands and a brightly coloured hair salon in the style of children’s television. Rapunzel’s cell-like room was cleverly lit with ingenious entrances and exits as characters used her long hair to climb the tower. The eerie silvery blue in the tower scenes and the red-out when the witch cast her spell were highly effective.
Costumes were black waistcoats with knickerbockers or peasant skirts for the ensemble and appropriate outfits for the key players. Gracie, Macie and Lacie’s outfits were blouses, straight black skirts and fishnet tights which seemed out of context period wise, although they did become ushers at the interval. The spiders’ costumes added extra ghastliness to their superb spider dance.
James Walsom played Dame Beatrix Bouffant with style, delivering the abundance of ‘hair’ puns and jokes such as ‘head and shoulders above the rest,’ ‘hair to the throne’ and ‘snip it in the bud,’ with vivacious charm. She had a crush on the captain of the guard (Ethan Simm,) who was hilarious in his bewilderment as he tried to pass her and she scooped him along for a waltz!
Show stealers Curly and Wurly (Robin Shergold and Shane Hannam) were like party poppers- adding colour and chaos at each appearance. There were tumbles, near misses, custard pies, a slow motion sequence and a side splitting broom dance to ‘Tiptoe Through the Tulips.’
Witch Gothel well played by Kate Gledhill, was nastiness on a stick, finally getting her comeuppance by shrivelling away altogether, leaving just her cloak. This was cleverly managed with lighting and a quick sidestep into the wings. Helen Emptage as Rapunzel added character and strength to the role and she and Prince Frederick’s ‘True Colours’ duet was a triumph. Casey Roser, beautiful as Fairy Flora, used her clear soothing voice to spread tranquillity over proceedings.
Sally Hannam as Frankie the Prince’s valet had the children enthusiastically answering ‘hi Frankie,’ to her ‘hi kids.’ Prince Frederick’s body language and expressions portrayed a comic vanity which tickled the audience – especially when he took a selfie. Both demonstrated a great rapport and characterised their parts well. Gracie, Macie and Lacie added droll humour to various scenes including one where Prince Frederick was chased by the paparazzi into the aisles creating an exciting immersive atmosphere.
Authoritarian King Geoffrey played by Jack Charlton Nevitt, managed the role with a maturity that bellied his fourteen years. He was well matched with Karleen Stevens as stately but doting Prince-Mother, Queen Gertrude.
The Ashdown Pantomimers should pat themselves and each other on the back for a this chirpy, inventive, audience encompassing, pantomime.