The Pied Piper

Date 29th November 2017
Society Sparkwell Amateur Theatre Company
Venue Sparkwell Village Hall
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Kay Wills
Choreographer Carole Wison


Author: Gareth Davies

My first panto of the festive season this year and well done to Sparkwell Amateur Theatre Company for a very enjoyable evening. There is a tendency for pantomimes to be overlong but I am very pleased to say that this panto was just the right length, long enough to be entertaining and contain all the traditional ‘panto’ ingredients but short enough to keep the children, young and old, in the audience engaged. Director Kay Wills and choreographer Carole Wilson together produced a slick and fun production from beginning to end, and they should be commended for achieving so much in a limited space and with such a large cast.

The principals all gave good performances and I would particularly comment on the terrific work from Sam Jarvis and George Shirley. As Blatter and Splatter, they brought a lot of comedy to their traditional double act. Even when things went wrong it did not put them off their stride! This was a great comedy partnership and, I suspect, they had been building their routines all through rehearsals and enjoyed having an audience. That is just as it should be and much of their timing was superb.

Phil Gibson was fantastic as the Dame, Helga; he also has a natural talent for comedy and the ability to think on his feet onstage. This trio, along with Lucy Chapman as Willie, produced some excellent comedy throughout the show (particularly the sausage routine) and even made the traditional ‘sing-a-long’ fresh and new. Gemma Parsons gave a nice performance as Pippin, the Pied Piper, although I would have liked to see her being a little more commanding in the role. Olivia Gibson (Hans), Ian Markus (Burgomeister) and Evie Heal (Heidi) all produced good strong performances in their roles.

I liked the way that the production avoided the expected clichés at times and the direction gave all the performers the opportunity to produce good characterisation. Peter Sullivan was an excellent villain as Rat-Worst, with Lesley Masey and Edna Maunder working well opposite each other as the embittered Sour-Kraut and the good Fairy Strudel – there was just enough comedy interplay to make them both a lot of fun.

Whilst fully using a lot of traditional panto ‘gags’ the production was slick and right for modern audiences. There were plenty of jokes for the kids and quite a few ‘adult only’ moments slipped in as well. I particularly like the routine with the sausages, bringing it up to date and a special mention for the stage crew, led by Nigel Thorne, for the effective and hilarious gags with the scenery!

The choreography was excellent, as I would expect from Carole Wilson, employing the skills of each performer with care. The company were well drilled and, mostly, in time during the big numbers.

The scenery by Sarah Baker was excellent, particularly the magical fountain; Ben Small’s lighting was impressive from the opening and worked extremely well. The costumes from Molly Limpet’s Theatrical Emporium were, as always with this company, outstanding and evidence of a lot of hard work behind the scenes, particularly by Kay Wills and her dressers.

The large ensemble performed with lots of energy and fun throughout, with some lovely cameos and the staging enabled everyone to be clearly seen - even those in the cast who might have a natural tendency to gravitate up stage. We can still see you!

My only advice for the ensemble is to remain focused on the action at all times; reacting is hard to sustain when you have nothing to say; and try to avoid over-acting, unless the role or the moment demands that style. There were times when this pulled focus away from the principal action in a scene.

A very successful pantomime from Sparkwell and thank you for such a warm, friendly welcome too. Thank you and well done for all of your hard work, on stage, backstage and front of house. I’ll look forward to returning to Sparkwell!