|Date||15th January 2020|
|Society||Congleton Pantomime Society|
|Venue||The Daneside Theatre, Congleton|
|Type of Production||Pantomime|
|Musical Director||Tim Sagar|
Author: Joe Clarke
The 2020 NODA season kicked off this week, before the awards for 2019, with Congleton Pantomime’s version of Robin Hood. Directed by Linda Davenport and Assisted by Darren Brown, this panto had something for everyone. The clever script and the direction enhanced the overall production so that the pace was good, scene changes were swift, and characters were brought to life and allowed to shine. The script really was excellent. From the one-liners, to the set up physical comedy, everyone was allowed their chance to stand out and have their moment. The positivity and camaraderie from the whole company were apparent and because the cast were having a great time, we were too! Linda Davenport’s clever direction ensured that the audience were never bored. Scenes changes were especially quick and silent which made the whole piece flow. I loved the use of the backcloths which really helped to set the scene and establish locations and the costumes were equally fabulous! The costumes and wigs for Gertie Gusset were particularly impressive. It was clear that a lot of hard work had gone into this production and it certainly paid off. I also loved the use of the sign language interpreter who was cleverly used throughout this production.
Choreography by Louise Carter was good, and the dancers were used well throughout the show. It was lovely to see a variety of styles within this pantomime and whilst I felt that some of the chorus were marking the choreography rather than performing, they looked like they were having a great time, so what do I know? The musical direction, by Tim Sagar was great. In fact, the band were very good, and it was so pleasing to see and hear a live band at The Daneside Theatre! The band were very sympathetic to the cast and the songs which shows good musical direction. It would’ve been great to have some more harmonies and hear the company parts, but it didn’t need it. I was particularly impressed with the drummer who showed light and shade in tone which I appreciate is very hard to achieve.
The set and props were great and really enhanced the overall production as well as setting the scene and enhancing the comedy. There was a slight issue with the flour moving scene, but this only made the scene funnier and the cast member dealt with it very well. The lights were pretty basic, but again this production didn’t need anything too extravagant. I liked the use of the gobos which added layer and texture. The sound was really good considering stage mics were used. It didn’t negatively impact on footwear which it can sometimes do so a great well done to the sound team for their efforts.
Robin Hood, played by Beckie Morley, was a little underused in this show. When Beckie was onstage she had a great energy and had all of the necessary traits for a stereotypical panto hero. Beckie had a lovely stage presence and worked well with others to convey the plot.
Maid Marion didn’t have too much to do either. The scenes with Marion in them were nice and Emma Robinson showed some of the traits needed for the pathos. I would’ve preferred a little more energy and projection but I’m being a little picky.
Prince John (Jack Brown) quickly established a great rapport with the audience and ensured that he was booed in all of the right places. Jack was suitably funny and suitably evil and was well cast in this role. He also displayed good comic timing and energy.
Gertie Gusset – the panto Dame – was a little Danny La-rue/Julian Clary esq, which suited Danny Gilman’s characterisation. This is Danny’s first foray into playing the Dame and whilst there are some areas that Danny can enhance further, I certainly hope it won’t be his last! Danny was funny, entertaining and was very well cast in this role. He also worked well with Rob Tagell (Malcolm Gusset) who was a good storyteller. I would’ve preferred Malcolm to be a little more dim-witted and played on the slapstick a little more, but this is entirely my opinion.
The Sheriff of Nottingham (Antony Clowes) and his Henchman sidekick (Archie Tideswell) were funny and entertaining to watch. Both were given their time to shine and both did well to convey character and story, particularly Clowes.
The rest of Robin’s gang were made up of Daniel Carter (Will Scarlett), Friar Tuck (Chris Froggatt), Alana Dale (Claire Copestick-Brown), Chris Mann (Little John) and Rory Mason (Philippe Phillope). All were brilliantly funny and entertaining in their characterisations and delivery of the comedy. Carter was a great storyteller with great stage presence and Mann mostly delivered his comedy well. A special mention had to go to Rory Mason’s performance which was so dry it was practically a sand dune! Mason brought a humour to a part that probably isn’t that funny on paper and he certainly entertained me in every scene he was in!
The rest of the large cast had their parts to play and they performed well to the sell out audience(s). This script really is SO funny – even the names of the Merry Men are hilarious! Overall, this was a strong performance from a society that generally perform once a year. I just can’t believe I need to wait a whole year before I see them again! Boo!!
Congratulations on a lovely performance and I wish you all the best for your other productions this year.