Date 12th December 2014
Society Woodfield Entertainers
Venue Ashtead Peace Memorial Hall
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Georgina Margetts
Musical Director Sara Bramall
Choreographer Mel Schmidt and George Margetts


Author: Jon Fox

Rapunzel is one of the lesser performed pantomimes, though the story of the young princess shut up in the tower, letting down her very long hair, is well known.

As local stages go the Ashtead Peace Memorial Hall has an ample sized area in which to stage the  required Panto effects.     I was somewhat disappointed then by the limp device by which Rapunzel's tower scenes was enacted.    With judicious use of the front stage steps leading to the stage proper and a painted tower facade would surely have provided a more realistic impression of the all important tall tower.

However, there was the required amount of energy and enthusiasm on display from the larger than average cast members.   There were three truly outstanding performers - Neil Edwards as Harold, the cheery fool and children's friend, Jenny Gamache as a highly charismatic and ample bosomed Dame Trott, overcoming the undoubted handicap of being a real female in this pivotal role.   In particular, Sara Brammall as the repulsive Buboe (a great name this, given true authenticity by the disgustingly realistic bubonic facial boils and revolting persona).    This was a bravura performance by Sara worthy of any professional production.

These three gifted performers were ably supported by the other principals.

King and Queen (Kenny Menet-Hawkins and Hannah Chapman) were both a little young to have the presence to be entirely convincing as Rapunzel's parents.   Fairy (Denise Hillie         r) had good diction and stage presence.    Gothel (Mel Schmidt), clearly talented, but I found her characterisation too gentle and I would have preferred more overt evilness.    Rapunzel (Cara Turner) carried off her part well.   Quinn (Amalee Gamache) in love with Rapunzel, needed a little more attack.   Doyle (Simon Gadd) - a good performance.   The two Palace guards (Millie Barnes and Kira McLennon) were both  young and enthusiastic.

The Undesirables

Crevice           Penny January                    Maggots         Sandra Graves                    

Pus                 Tanya McArthur                  Phlegm           Debbie Donhue                   

Ooze               Claire Webb                      Squat              Thomas Thorburn               

Snot                Connor Thorburn                Clive (politician) Graham Thorburn.

What wonderful names!  Their shared enthusiasm came over well.      

The commendable energy, enthusiasm and ability of young limbs to move well were extremely well marshalled by Georgina (George) Margetts in her directing debut.  There were many comical and well directed scenes.  I particularly liked the company recoiling in horror when one of the "Undesirables" was revealed to be a politician!   Very topical and utterly believable.     His character, Clive, was not mentioned in the programme - I later found out that his real name is Graham Thorburn - and his scene certainly had my vote!

Many of those on stage being young or very young, had not the same level of stage / Panto experience.    There is no shortcut and everyone needs to put in the hard yards, which obviously takes years in amateur theatre.    Though there were occasional amateur touches, a prompt here, a thrown away line there and that perennial fault of many young people - failure to speak clearly and to enunciate and speak to the back of the hall, I repeat that these are only overcome by age and experience.

The ghost scene worked well and was skilfully put together (the Ghost was well played by Kenny Menet-Hawkins).     The choreography was, in the main, simple but highly effective.    Singing was to taped music, perhaps a financial necessity, but could be heard and was enjoyed by the fairly full audience.   The delightful children's songsheet (The 12 days of Christmas) would have been better done on the stage rather than in front as much of what was going on was hidden from view.   Perhaps this could be considered next year?

Costumes were outstandingly good, in some cases magnificent.    Denise Hillier (Fairy) and Mel Schmidt (the evil Gothel) were in charge of these and should both take a bow, their own ones among the very best.

Much of the make-up and wigs by  Amy-Lou Milner and Laura Hillier were of a high standard, in particular Rapunzel (and her hair) herself, Gothel, Fairy and the aforementioned Buboe.    Costume and make-up are so vital to a believable Panto.

The set was effective, apart from the tower as mentioned, well designed by Sara Brammall and her team.   The various scenes were well represented with set changes being handled slickly.

Lighting (Dominic Lawrence) and sound (Bruce Arnold) were sympathetically handled.

All in all this was a most enjoyable pantomime and I am grateful for the invitation to review and for the warm welcome Sue and I were accorded.