Sleeping Beauty and the Forty Winks

Date 1st February 2024
Society Peaslake Players
Venue Peaslake Village Hall
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Ben Hilton
Musical Director Peter Hilton
Choreographer Martha Kinnes
Written By Peter Hilton

Report

Author: Pauline Surrey

This production of the old fairy tale was garnished by a very green French frog, called TAFKAP, who acted as narrator. The show was lively and fun, full of cleverly adapted songs, great dancing, and of course lots of marvellous jokes. It whizzed by in a flash, and we all got very wet!

Peaslake Village Hall is great for panto. Its stage is against the longer wall, and thus it has a long shallow auditorium, so one is never far from the action.Lighting was very effective throughout. Sound quality was excellent.

The frog TAFKAP was clad in Breton striped top, green beret, green gloves, and very green makeup, he really looked the part. Maleficent looked exceedingly evil in black with a very threatening black horned headdress and long black staff. The King and Queen were splendid in their regal attire, and of course the Queen wore a marvellous wig and crazy makeup with Clara Bow lips. The 4 fairies looked marvellous in floaty dresses with long dangling sleeves, with wide belts, and individual headdresses. Round their waists were clever wand holders. All the wands were different too. Stud the palace guard sported a long blue tabard, and chain mail helmet and a very long spear. The Winks and Dancers wore various different costumes, including some rather good red tartan pyjamas, and always looked interesting with all their changes. Princess Aurora looked pretty in her long cream or white gowns. Of course, Prince Alan was superb in tights, tunic, hair tied back with a big purple ribbon, and at one point a very impressive hat. Ron and Don had some super braces, red ones I believe, and at one stage wore menacing black masks, both different. So at all times there was something to admire in the costume department, which always really adds to the enjoyment.

The painted scenery was delightful, both the palace and the woodland one. Peaslake obviously has a good team of designers and set painters. There were also a couple of good backdrop projections at appropriate times. Props were many and very effective, including a grandfather clock, various sized teddies, a carry cot, a baby doll which got rather maltreated, and owl that delivered letters, a vicious looking ‘thinking cap’ made out of a colander with many wires interwoven, and a winding mechanism to wind this cap up, a glorious throne, and many more. Oh and of course some very powerful water pistols.

The choice of music was joyous and fun, the lyrics were cleverly rewritten, and clear to hear every time. The choreography was very slick, and the dancing brilliantly executed by the talented young dancers.

Peter Hilton should be congratulated on his inventive and very funny script. We first met TAFKAP, the French frog, who was the whacky and hoppy narrator. Mark Taylor made a marvellous job of this role, and kept to his French accent throughout, even when hopping, I think! It was only much later that we found out about his odd name. We then encountered the very menacing Maleficent, who made us all shudder. Well played by Jude Pitcher. She had some rather odd henchmen, Ron and Don.

The curtains opened onto a delightful palace scene, with a carry cot and teddies of various sizes, showing the delight the none-too-young King and Queen felt at having been blessed with a child. Bobby Knott was a very endearing Stud, the palace guard, with wonderful facial expressions. Nick Boisseau was the mild, kindly, bemused King and Mike Sutton the bombastic, larger than life, grotesque Dame of the piece, the outrageous Queen. We had a lovely version of ‘Locomotion’ as the palace was prepared for the baby Princess Aurora’s christening.

In the woodland glade the 4 beautiful and colourful fairies appeared, Flora (Katie Kinnes), Fauna (Maxine Fox), Merryweather (Kate MacDougall) and Kate (Tricia Monk). They received a postal delivery from above, dropped by an owl, their invitations to the Christening Party. It was all these inventive little happenings that really made this panto not only hilarious but charming. Another such was the fact that Fairy Kate’s wand was a feather duster, her real wand having gone astray! Then of course, it came into its own in the wand song (As we wave our wands around around around, to the tune of The Wanderer)

We had previously been introduced to Maleficent’s henchmen Ron (Paul Elliot) and Don (Saul Galloway), and they appeared again in the evil fairy’s den in a very amusing scene featuring Don’s mean-looking ‘thinking cap’, that wired colander, which as he cranked it up with his clever winding mechanism emitted all kinds of colourful sparks from Ron’s head. Super! These two played well off one another.

Of course, at the Christening Party, the curse was placed, and mildened by the good fairies to one hundred years of sleep. In the second half we learnt the meaning of the Frog’s name TAFKAP. This stood for ‘The Artist Formerly Known As Prints’. We met the thigh slapping Prince Alan. Sarah Trotman made a lively and feisty Prince, a great performance, who of course woke Princess Aurora (Amelia Knott), and they married and lived happily ever after. But not before we had all had a good soaking from those jolly water pistols, and all sung for our supper with the wonderful ‘Deliveroo oo oo’.

Thus Peaslake Players thrilled and amused their audience (some people evidently came twice!) with this well-written and well-directed panto full of pep and pizzazz. A great team effort, it must have been great fun to do!