12th January 2018
Saffron Walden Town Hall
Type of Production
not credited - taped music
Author: Decia Ranger
This was the first time I have reviewed a production by this Society. Having been advised that they had become NODA members, I was really looking forward to seeing their annual pantomime. Saffron Players is a well established group who have been performing for many years now and judging by this year’s offering, they certainly perform to a very high standard.
A ‘warm-up’ was in progress as we took our seats. John Byatt had obviously captured the attention of the audience with his jokes and card tricks and by curtain up everyone was relaxed and waiting to see what the evening had in store. It was a pity the venue had so many empty seats on this the opening night. I do hope the people of Saffron Walden support the rest of the run. If they do they are in for a treat.
There were a lot of talented young people in the cast, acting alongside the adults, and they were a credit to director Keira Gibson who had put them through their paces, together with choreographer Elizabeth Cowell. Indeed, they all knew what they were supposed to be doing, which of course is as it should be, but it doesn’t always happen, especially on the first night. Yes, there were one or two slip ups and a fit of the giggles, which momentarily took us off script but hey, this is pantomime so let’s not get too serious.
Frayr Bridgeman made a lovely Snow White and the production was brought bang up to date with the introduction of seven minions replacing the seven dwarfs. This was a brilliant idea which I’m sure made the show more relatable to present day audiences. These characters were very well played by Lucy Chappell (Bossy), Fenella-Jane Thomson (Smarty), Tilly Jones (Smiley), Jake Nash (Grouchy, having doubled as Lord Chamberlain earlier in the production), Jodie Wright (Sneezy) and Kitty Hilling (Shy). When you have a group of young people, it’s often the way that one tends to stand out. For me this was Freya Bryant who gave a lovely confident performance as Drowsy. Communicating with her fellow minions in whispers, (and I must add here, with the aid of a hop-up stool which she carried around on stage with her – brilliant!) and dozing off on cue. Someone to watch I think.
There were other good performances from Didge Gibson as Nurse Edith, Viliami Mila, Nick Burton and John Byatt as the three Henchmen, Larry, Gary and Barry and two delightful Woodland Animals played by Alice Fernall, and Chloe Chapman.
A very energetic performance by Rachel Crane as Billy who told us to tell her every time a cake appeared on stage, before it was stolen by Cake Bandit Olivia Knight. Very well done to both these young performers.
A terrific performance by Jonathan Scripps as Stepmother, trying every ploy possible to get rid of the lovely Snow White, to fantastic comedic effect. The mirror to which she turns for affirmation of her ‘beauty’ was a cleverly constructed and illuminated frame in which we saw the head and shoulders of Rob Fernall suitably attired and made up to resemble a reflection. This was clever stuff and these two actors made a good pairing, having us all in fits of laughter.
Callum Blackmore as the Prince was obviously nervous. He needs to relax more into the role and I’m sure that after a few more performances this will come. Apart from that, well done.
Well done also to Nyah Bunting, Matilda Burton and Beatrice Burton, the three young ladies who made up the chorus.
This was a very good production and it was obvious that a lot of love and effort had gone into bringing it to the stage. Congratulations to Sue James and her wardrobe assistants who created the lovely costumes, and to everyone involved with bringing the set to life. There were a lot of scene changes but these were carried out smoothly and with minimum interruption to the pace, Lighting and sound were all good and the taped music worked well and was never too loud.
I thoroughly enjoyed my first visit to Saffron Players. Thank you for inviting me.