The Frog Prince

Date 10th January 2019
Society Cobham Players
Venue Cobham Village Hall
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Jamie Mclean
Musical Director Gill Pepperrell
Choreographer Lauren Laycock

Report

Author: Jon Fox

Cobham Players chose a script by Andrew O'Leary for this tale of a handsome Prince who had been turned into a frog by the jealous witch Aunt Phibian, because he did not love her.   It is an interesting tale but suffers from a lack of a good immortal - the Godmother - until very late on in the story.   Consequently, the traditional battle between the good and the bad immortal  was shoehorned into the very end. I thought this far from ideal.

My other grouse with the script was that it much under played the pivotal role of Dame - Annie Chance - played in amusing style by John MacCormack, though with not enough Dame led comedy. What there was, worked well.   These were the two weaknesses in what was certainly not the best script I have seen. However, there were several good lines as one would expect, with the usual topical references. For my money, the best comic scene was performed when the Dame selected a lady from the audience to come on stage where she was hypnotised and an hilarious routine ensued where she was fitted with two false legs, accompanied by much audience laughter.     

Weasel and Ferret the comic "grandsons" of the Dame, dressed as young schoolboys, played respectively by Charlotte Coulson and Anne MacCormack, both possessed good timing with fine panto style acting. The incompetent "Baddie" comic duo were well played by George Marcall and Charlie English, as Rocky and Pebbles respectively. They handled the song-sheet number "Bingo was his name O"  in sure style, joined on stage by three cute small children from the audience and three jolly male adults in their twenties, all intent on enjoying themselves. An odd mixture, but it impressed overall.

One of the better players was the experienced Karen Budd as the witch (pretending not to be one, as Aunt Phibian), even though complete with pointed witch hat, broomstick and an effective green and black wig and costume. Karen radiated stage presence. Another strong player was Jessica McLean in the lead role of  Princess Beatrice. She was well cast with all the sweet nature, looks and ability required of the lead female role.

The male lead in the title role was a tad less assured, though he certainly looked the part. Charles Pepperdell as Prince Norman did well enough overall, despite a relative lack of oomph, which all Panto lead players require in spades. Nick Forder did well as King Albert.

I was much taken with Hugh McLean playing The Duke as a frog. He was put in prison for a crime he did not "kermit" - a groaner of course, but so well timed and his evident stage experience was obvious.

Three charming sisters - two of them sisters in real life - played the naughty siblings of Princess Beatrice. All were talented dancers, though still very young and with some acting talent - though, as with a number of young players, given to speaking too quickly and not always "cheating" front. They were Ruby and Alice Acquaye and Aliyah Murray as Astrid, Leona and Viola respectively.

Two charming young girls, Emily Chambers and Zoe Groocock, played Hansel and Gretel with consummate charm. In my opinion, the star young performer on stage was definitely ten year old Joe Wood as Jack.   He showed a natural stage presence, with an obvious joy of being there and I predict he will be a lead player before he leaves his teens - his talent was obvious.

Highly experienced Harry Sadler was excellent in the cameo role of Sir Lancelot, but I know he is a truly accomplished actor. Finally came Lauren Laycock as The Godmother (a fairy, complete with wand), clearly an all round stage performer of distinction. My only gripe is that the role appeared so late in the script - we needed far more of her!!

I did find the relative lack of scenery in some scenes a little obvious and an overall more colourful set was needed. The Palace Ballroom was effective, but we needed more set in general.

Costumes, along with props, courtesy of Jamie Mclean, Angela Baird and the company overall were middling to good. There were some suitable garish tops as tradition demands, but I thought less of a sea of black trousers. Black, for the baddies apart, is not a suitable Panto colour. I did think the Frogs and their costumes were good and "hop it" was said more than once. Corny yes, but real panto type lines. I thought Aunt Phibian looked splendidly mean and who could fail to adore the young frogs and pigs in their masks etc..

Lighting under Stephen Farr was surely handled as was sound under Andrew Mair and Ollie Craig. A particularly effectively timed SFX was when Annie kicked the radio "into touch" as it were.

The well choreographed "cup banging" scene was slickly rehearsed and stood out among several other show highlights. Lauren Laycock, show choreographer, set mainly simple and well carried out movements.   There was some pleasant singing especially by Jessica, Charles and John, though I thought some percussion would have added some oomph to the competent two piece band of Gill Pepperrell and Steve Waters.

One big niggle, as I am firmly in the traditionalist camp, is that the Witch exited stage right. This should never happen with the evil immortal.  

Overall, director Jamie McLean assisted by Angela Baird gave us a highly watchable production and the smallish audience gave warm applause at the final walkdown.