Robinson Crusoe and The Pirates

Date 24th January 2020
Society Westovian Theatre Society
Venue Pier Pavilion,South Shields
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Wayne Miller
Musical Director Jen Stevens
Choreographer Stacy Miller
Producer Val Codling

Report

Author: Foster Johnson

Pantomime at its very best. That’s what a packed audience witnessed from the Westovian’s production of Tom Whalley’s Robinson Crusoe and the Pirates. For me the storyline in any pantomime is the least important facet of any production. It is all about the cast and the audience coming together and having a fun packed evening after which everyone leaves to return home with a warm feeling. Well it certainly was the case with this show.

Everything about the production smacked of quality from the Set design, Costumes, Lighting and Sound, Music, Choreography and not least of all a talented cast from dancers, to ensemble and principals. This was in no small measure to the talents and obvious hard work of Director and Co-Director Wayne Miller and Hannah Potter, Musical Director Jen Stevens and Choreographer Stacy Miller A synopsis of the theme of the pantomime is basically that it tells the tale of the young hero Robinson setting out with his family and friends to foreign parts to search for treasure along the way battling pirates, island natives and the mummified undead, during which he succeeds and also finds true love. Interspersed in the story we had the usual slapstick routines and the ever popular audience participation.

As for the cast themselves to my eyes they were faultless. The dancers/ensemble were spot on throughout the show and a happy glow radiated from them whenever they were on stage. They engendered an appreciative and warm response from the audience. There were eight named leading parts. James Barton as Captain Blacktashe the evil pirate has an impressive acting and directing c.v. He brought all this talent to the fore with a fine interpretation as the suitably menacing foe of Robinson. His aide come fall guy Winkle was superbly played al a Smee from Peter Pan by Laurie Smedley who came in as a last minute replacement due to the absence of Katie Reed. Well done to her.  Playing the role of the sea fairy/enchantress Calypsoe we had that consummate performer Lorna Bell. To me she has that natural comedic touch and always seems to be completely at ease in this environment. The role of the Dame in any pantomime production is crucial and it normally falls to be performed by a seasoned player. However in this case I had the great pleasure to see an actor of tremendous potential in the guise of 17 year old Luke Martin undertake the role. What an outstanding performance he gave as Dame Crystal Crusoe. Look out for more of him. The love interest role of Polly Perkins was played by Katie Stubbs another of the Company’s young performers who has been with them for two years. She too has a performing and creative theatrical portfolio which is second to none and showed that she has a bright future in the world of theatre. Jessica Henderson undertook the dual roles of Mrs. Perkins (Polly’s Mother) and Friday the native friend to be of Robinson.  Recently joining the ranks of the senior section from the talented breeding ground of the juniors she played both roles extremely well and did not look out of place in the environment.

The role of Sprat Crusoe Robinson’s somewhat dim brother was Holly Chinneck. I had the pleasure of watching the performance from the front of the theatre and her stage presence and acting skills both facially and bodily were a joy to witness. She also bears that natural comedic touch and her empathy and interaction with the audience was first class.

Finally, but by no means least we had Rosie Diaz in the role of Robinson Crusoe. She is also a very talented and experienced young performer and in playing her first lead role in a pantomime for the Westovians she demonstrated a fine array of acting skills needed for this part.