Will Shakespeare The Panto

Date 27th November 2021
Society Cast and Crew Theatre Workshop
Venue War Memorial Hall
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Sarah Lepley
Musical Director Sally Catling
Choreographer Bernie Saxby


Author: Jess Pether

It’s the time of year when pantos start gracing our stages. (Oh yes it is!) Usually it’s Aladdin, Cinderella or Puss in Boots, but Cast & Crew decided to go rogue and perform Will Shakespeare The Panto.

Set in the 16th century, we meet William Shakespeare at the start of his career. The Queen of England is hosting a poetry competition and baddy of the piece Edward De Vere is determined to win, by any means necessary. De Vere was played by Deb Adams and she was suitably slimy.

One of the main things that stood out to me about this production was the absolutely incredible costumes. I was so impressed by them all, especially the Queen’s huge gold dress and the dame, Helena Handbasket’s, livid green frock. Helena was camply played by Martin Lepley and he was one of my favourite characters. He didn’t hold back and brought laughs to the show.

There are too many cast members to mention them all, but the person who stood out the most for me was Coral Baker, who played Shakespeare’s cleaner (and potential love interest!) Rosie. There was some singing in the show and she had a very strong and pleasant voice. Coral’s character had good reactions and I enjoyed watching her.

Another standout performer was Hayley Ashby who played Bob. Anyone familiar with Blackadder will know about young man “Bob”, who is actually a woman trying to get by in a man’s world. In the panto, Bob wants to become an actor, which in Shakespearean times is a profession only open to men. Hayley had great energy and I could tell she was very confident on stage, often taking the lead in songs. However, I would have preferred if she’d have taken out her facial piercings and perhaps not had long, bright green nails! Although this was a panto and not a “serious” show, it was meant to be set in the 1700s, so it would have helped authenticity.

It was great to see that the stage was set up with drops mics, which meant dialogue was easy to hear. However, some of the action was set in front of these, meaning certain bits of dialogue of song were lost, which was a shame.

The pace of the show was good and there were some nice little comedy parts to watch, such as Perry Baker (playing Alexander Cooke) and Trudy Britnell, who was one half of evil sidekick duo Guildenstern. The Shakespeare of this panto was one who was down on his luck (and a bit clueless!) and Lynsie Sholaim portrayed this well.

I’ve said this about Cast & Crew before but they always look like they’re having a great time on stage, and I’m sure with this being their first post-COVID show, they were even more happy to be there. The show wasn’t too OTT in terms of a panto, although there was a nice amount of audience interaction. The musical numbers were the weaker sections of the production, which isn’t surprising as this group stick mainly to acting, but credit must be given to all for having a go!

Thank you for welcoming me to Canvey Island on one of the windiest nights of the year. Your panto definitely warmed me up!