The Plotters of Cabbage Patch Corner

Date 20th January 2017
Society Cobham Players
Venue Cobham Village Hall
Type of Production Musical play
Director Rodney Pearson
Musical Director Gill Pepperrell
Choreographer Sara Pittman

Report

Author: Jon Fox

This charming children's story with music and certain elements of panto was written by David Wood and originally performed at the Swan Theatre, Worcester, which I know very well.    The "Big Ones" - Karen Budd and Phil Paul, humans who are heard but not seen,  own a garden where the players are all tiny creatures and insects.   The simple plot concerns the battle between the plain garden pests - Greenfly, Maggot and Slug, who wish to destroy the garden, due to constant spraying by the "Big Ones" and the pretty insects - Red Admiral, Bumble Bee and Ladybird, who are not sprayed and wish to maintain the status quo.    Glow Worm, constantly sleepy during daytime, sides with the attractive ones and the busy Ant dressed as a builder, complete with hard yellow hat and high viz jacket, is persuaded to join the would be destroyers, though later he changes sides.

Also heavily involved was The Great Mushroom, in the form of Charlie English, fount of all wisdom, acting as the Messiah but mostly asleep and snoring in a mobile compost heap, like a very naughty boy (apologies to Monty Python)  and wheeled on stage by a crew member.    I must say though that his acting standard was far nearer Messiah than naughty boy!     Spider was played with realism by the vastly experienced - and that experience certainly showed - Victoria Franklin, with well chosen and accurate, though slightly creepy German accent, slinky coat and pointy Dunces type hat,  trapping and imprisoning the insects in the flower pot with a giant web and later on helping try to remove it.

The marvellous garden set comprising a giant flower pot on stage with a cabbage patch, huge  marrow, floral display, some fruit and giant celery painted on flats really set the scene.   Steps down to the hall brought us all more fully into the action.    Add a wheelbarrow, two bales of hay and a garden trunk and the magical effect was complete.  

The constant plotting between the two sides was only finally resolved when the "Big Ones"  were heard to plan concreting over the garden completely to build a garage.    Alarmed by this revelation, the two sides joined forces to change the "Big Ones" minds, by deciding to make the garden so beautiful that the Big Ones would not dare to destroy it, in which they finally succeeded.    Oh,  I do so love a happy ending!

Costumes were imaginatively created;  the Red Admiral, dressed as a naval Admiral, all in red and rather striking, played with complete and booming  authority in his voice by the gifted Graham Budd, being just one among them all so wonderfully attired in true character  costumes by the eagle eyed Mary Taylor on Wardrobe, though the marvellous director, Rodney Pearson surely had major imput too on styles and colouring.   All in all the costumes were special and made a huge contribution to the enjoyment  shown by the enthusiastic audience, who were heavily involved in true and  noisy panto tradition.

The Glow Worm, played beautifully by Millie Hart, complete with lantern, flitted and sometimes groped here, there and everywhere, trying her best to be helpful whilst feeling so sleepy in the daytime.    Ladybird was given glamorous life and great personality in an attractive red/black costume by Grace Law.    Slug  was darkly played by the experienced Mike Dawes in a black costume - what else for a slug! - and kept nicely in character.

Greenfly, with wings too, no less, was Megan Colley, really hating being sprayed - well who wouldn't? - but her hate had an endearing quality in an odd way, which I very much enjoyed.    Maggot was a stroppy teenage boy dressed in shorts, back to front  schoolcap and was the son of Greenfly.    Maggot was given a nice line in angst, in true Kevin the Teenager fashion by fourteen year old Isobel Wallis, who also showed a nimble pair of feet.   Another performer with distinct promise!

I have left the two most memorable performances to last, in true showbiz fashion, as the two mere ten year old girls Darcy Abel as Ant and Serena Browne as Bumble Bee in another magnificent yellow and black costume both gave such mature performances that one quickly forgot that both were children.    Their timing and presence on stage were little short of breathtakingly good.    Clearly both Darcy and Serena possess huge potential to go a long way in their ambition to be professional.  Both also have good looks and can sing, major advantages if going into the business.   On speaking to both after the show, I was impressed by their shared humbleness, keenness to learn and personal charm and I will watch with much interest  to see how they both progress.

The highly effective set was designed and built by Roger Jones, Hilary Jones and Albert Westover who should  all feel very satisfied with what they provided.

Under the control of Gill Pepperrell, the singing and musical interludes were  well carried out.   I much enjoyed "The Ugly Bug Ball" invoking memories of the great Burl Ives himself.   I also rather liked "Down with the Big Ones," "United we Stand," " Insecticide" and  "We are the Plotters of Cabbage Patch Corner" among several other  spiritedly rendered songs.

Sara Pittman devised the choreography which was well carried out with much energy and a certain style  overall.

Lighting and sound both of which were really well handled were by Stephen Farr (Lighting) and Alex Woods and Andrew Mair (Sound). The night scenes were particularly effectively done.

Director Rodney Pearson used his players well and good and varied use was made of the stage and all it's furniture and the hall.  Pace throughout was of good standard and the whole made  for a highly enjoyable evening, as I have become regularly accustomed to at the engaging and innovative Cobham Players.