The Pied Piper
20th February 2016
Needingworth Village Hall
Type of Production
Author: Sandra Samwell
As ever, we were given a very warm welcome to Wellworth Players’ latest production and some jolly fine seats next to the new musical director, Neil Kohler, which added to our anticipation of an entertaining pantomime in the safe hands of an experienced company.
The features that one has come to expect from this society were there in abundance: a beautifully constructed and painted set worthy of a bigger venue and a plethora of rib tickling and groan inducing jokes, often supported with some equally amusing props alongside some delightfully bright and appropriate costumes.
Many congratulations to writer/director Marie Quick on adapting the Pied Piper story to panto format whilst retaining its magic and mystery.
There were many other features and performances to enjoy in a Saturday matinee full of appreciative young children, one of whom got quite carried away in trying to warn the players of what lay behind them!
Neal Dench was a dangerously attractive Dame with some lovely frocks, but proved very adept in the delivery of quick fire gags. Similarly, Chris Thompson was an extremely convincing yokel who became braver and more of a romantic lead as the piece progressed. Kirsty Inman was particularly fine as his love interest and the village teacher. Paul Silver was a most amusing Doctor Semibreve whilst Karen Bays gave us a slightly creepy but nonetheless captivating Pied Piper.
To be honest, I felt that both she and Mark Hebert’s beautifully bumbling mayor could have done with being less sympathetically written as the good and bad might have benefited from being more polarised, but the humour in the portrayal of the councillors by Abi Pearson and Vicki Clark and the physical interplay in Maggie Redgrave and Vi Parkinson’s take on Bodgitt and Leggitt lifted the comedy with their every appearance.
The cast was completed with some convincing villagers and six delightful children who also played the rats.
There were some lively and well sung songs although some of the keys might have been a tad higher for maximum effect and a few of the performers who were less experienced in retaining tempo would have been better served with a live backing throughout. Nevertheless, Neil Kohler was an inspired MD ably supported by other technical aspects such as seamless stage management and effective lighting.
My main gripes and these are relatively minor in the context of an entertaining afternoon’s entertainment concerned, firstly, the lack of varied and structured choreography which left the players looking lost in some numbers; the children in particular could have coped with something more complicated and, secondly, the panto business such as the ‘cake’ making and the ghost joke, neither of which worked to their true comic effect. Probably the Dame and Edward needed to be given more to do to hold the whole pantomime together and carry more of the traditional panto routines or the ’heart of the piece’ from the very start.
That being said, this was a most commendable and enjoyable piece of specialist theatre, generously applauded by a capacity audience. Wellworth Players have provided some fantastic theatre over the past year and I look forward to seeing many more excellent plays and pantomimes from this terrific society who punch well above their theatrical weight.