The Emperor's New Clothes

Date 9th December 2021
Society Wilburton Theatre Group
Venue St Peter's Hall, Wilburton
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Maureen Hunter & Ann Sherwood
Musical Director Tim Brown
Choreographer Millie Sutcliffe

Report

Author: Julie Petrucci

Wilburton Theatre Group went for a new take on The Emperor’s New Clothes, the folktale written by Hans Christian Andersen about a vain emperor who gets exposed before his subjects.  In this version, vain Emperor Montague Preen is obsessed with clothes, and he's set up a competition to furnish his next outfit. Conman/woman/person Fabuloza Fettuccini sets out to humiliate the Emperor and to relieve him of his fortune.

Directors Maureen Hunter and Ann Sherwood donned the directorial cloak for the first time.  Hats off to them for putting their toes in the water by directing a panto which is much harder than a straightforward drama. The secret of a good pantomime is energy and attack but both were sadly lacking in some quarters mainly due to lack of confidence with the dialogue on the first night. 

In the title role of Emperor Montague Preen Tim Meikle appeared in his element and he carried the weight of a very wordy script in great style.  Making the most of their on/off appearances were his long-suffering wife Persephone (DeeDee Doke), her Lady-in-Waiting Violet (Angela Starr) and the narrator of the piece Footie (George Keeble).  In the Principal Boy role as the Emperor’s son Sean, Claire-Rose Charlton produced a good confident performance.  Principal Girl Amelia Nimby (Alyssia Radford) also did well adding a smidgeon of romance to the piece.

Farmer Nimby (Jo Taylor) and his wife Nellie (Carole Gentry) were both confident with Nellie adding some amusement.  Katie Lewis in the flamboyant role of fashion designer Fabuloza Fettuccini was in energetic form and along with Mr Swindler (Rylee Weaver) and Mr Fiddler (Dylan Webb) made up the “baddy” team of the plot.  The two young baddies did really well and with a bit more guidance and experience have the potential to be good actors.

The Nimby Children/Flower Fairies were played by the younger WTG girls who all did what was asked of them.  The Cake baking skit (led by Samantha Dodd) worked pretty well although the Yorkshire Fairies could have got more laughs with their first big scene if dialogue had been sharper. Maybe it was just first night nerves.

Mention must be made of the excellent scenery built by Barry Starr and Barry Samuel and the splendid backdrops painted by Ann Sherwood, Angela Starr and Dymphna Kirwan.   Props were good and I loved the watering can which produced sparkling water to grow the magic beans although I think many in the audience would not have spotted it — I was fortunately sitting in the right place. Wardrobe and Costume Mistress Margot Barber provided a great number of colourful costumes especially the garish apparel for the Emperor.  Compliments too on the well thought out costumes for the Nimby family.

Unusually for a panto there were few songs and no sing-along.  Perhaps I would have liked more encouragement for audience participation which is always part of the fun of a pantomime.  However, I am sure this will have been a learning experience for the new directors and it was good to be back at a WTG show.  Thank you for inviting me.