Red Riding Hood

Date 10th January 2020
Society Leighton Buzzard Drama Group
Venue Leighton Buzzard Library Theatre
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Jo Taylor
Musical Director Paul Daggart
Choreographer Donna Jackson

Report

Author: Richard Fitt

Leighton Buzzard have always amazed me with their ability for selling out their pantomime over a three-week period, surrounded as they are by professional pantos in nearby towns. They need to be at the top of their game, highly inventive and provide a top-notch show. After my visit on Friday I can confirm they are certainly all of those! The script for this one, Red Riding Hood was written by local author Jim Fowler and was probably their best and zaniest yet, with a completely different take on the traditional story. Gone was the demure, vulnerable Red Riding Hood and in came Superwoman, complete with a large R on her belt well equipped to deal with all the baddies, a Wolf who was a perfect gentleman, a Bonkers Bunny, a Leprechaun and an evil landowning Lord with a dastardly plot to make a fortune by building a housing estate. Just one problem, he needs to have the Wolf’s wood chopped down to make way for it! Enter our slap stick trio…. Well, you get the gist!

The set by Mike Ward and managed by Nigel Allen was a masterpiece of design and colour, with two trucks with reversable flats, depicting a sweetshop and a florist reversible to grandma’s cottage and a school classroom complete with dropdown flaps. And with the simple act of hanging camouflage netting they were quickly and easily converted into the wood. Very well thought out. The lighting by Dave Miles provided a series of excellent washes and sound by Thomas Davis was crystal clear with only a couple of the usual mic blips, quickly sorted I hasten to add.

Costumes by Kim Aguilar and Sheena Ward were of course suitably outrageous and had some super original ideas. Red Riding Hood’s was particularly brilliant, as were Mr Wolf and Lennie the Leprechaun, not forgetting the OTT costumed Mandy Valentine.

Donna Jackson put together some lively choreography and then performed it herself as part of an excellent chorus.

The band under the direction of Paul Daggart (always to be known as Flashheart to me), were a tight outfit and nice to see them hitting the spot every time with the array of boom, boom jokes! Nice job Pete Bellamy (Bass), Mikey Ciancio (Drums) and Felix Askew-Conti (Guitar) who performed a very impressive “Brian May-esque” solo.

There wasn’t a weak link in this cast. Trish Turner as Red Riding Hood certainly wasn’t taking prisoners and gave an assured performance as a very different Red Riding Hood. And she can certainly hold a tune! Perfect leading lady!

Maggie Moulds opened the show as the narrator with a wonderfully outsized copy of the script, which gave us our first glimpse of the great comedy to come.

Carl Russell was at his absolute zany best as our baddy Lord Blackthorne, his little dance routine had the audience in absolute stitches. And I always take my hat off to anyone prepared to take on Freddy Mercury and Carl’s version of Don’t Stop Me Now was pretty top draw stuff. Russell Bennett complimented him well as his village idiot sidekick, Sebastian with some great gormless facial expressions.

John Stone was an excellent Mandy Valentine, our dame, with all the expected tricks delivered with aplomb.

Loved Tony White as Mr Wolf, the gentleman canine in splendid make up and costume that gave him such a demure look.

The two zaniest characters had to be Bonkers the bunny played by Caroline Page and Mark Croft as Lennie the Leprechaun. You just lost it with these two as they extracted every laugh available. Just watching them move around the stage made you smile.

And now our moronic slapstick trio of village idiots, Silly (Hannah Rourke), Billy (Lucy Dudley) and Willy (Sian Treacy) who worked well off each other as they tumbled and rolled around the stage extracting laughs out of the audience in spades.

And when justice catches up with our characters there was Sam Stephens being a suitably stern Magistrate.

And finally, no panto is complete without a good chorus and Donna Jackson, Chloe King, Emma Brown and Heather Brodie certainly provided that, with some great songs and well drilled dance routines.

This was an extremely funny, very well paced production, of which director Jo Taylor should be rightly proud, with some superb individual performances which made this panto stand out as definitely up there amongst the best. The greatest compliment I can give it was made by my other half as we left the theatre, “I’d liked to see that again if we could have fitted it in.” Sadly, we won’t as we have to move on to other productions, but considering the number of pantos we sit through that is high praise indeed!

Finally, thank you Barbara for your usual warm hospitality, always a pleasure to visit!