Association of Community Theatre


by Alan P Frayn

Friends of the Art Theatre


Going out on a winters night is not everyone’s idea of fun but that is exactly what I did and had FUN,FUN,FUN!


This traditional tale, written by Alan P Frayn, was fast moving and had the right amount of adult and juvenile humour within it to appeal across a large age spectrum of audience members. It had all the elements within it that we expect from this genre of theatre: boy meets girl, a Dame, a Baddy we can boo, silly characters and a comedy duo and with a little touch of magic here and there. There was room for ensemble contributions, too.


The opening sequence, in Old Peking, got the pantomime off to a good, bright and colourful start with fantastic costumes. The ensemble entertained with song and dance and we were treated to a Chinese Dragon dance, that set the tone for the evening.


The choreography for this production was by Cathryn Yates and was of a high standard. It was obvious that every number had been well thought out. The movement and placement of characters, to avoid masking other performers, created an opportunity for all ensemble members to be seen. This is not an easy thing to accomplish with such a varied aged range. The width and depth of the stage was used to the full, and little details, such as arm placement so as not to cover other’s faces, was carefully organised. The dance routines were polished and it was evident that a lot of effort had been put into rehearsals.


The sound coming from the stage and the orchestra pit was excellent. The musical director, Tim Walker, must have worked equally diligently with all those who had songs to sing as they were sung well. I was most impressed with the sound that the two-piece band, keyboard and drums, made as accompaniment. The musical pieces sounded close to the original soundtracks and this enhanced the production greatly.


It must be a joy to have a theatre like this; one that has good facilities to use, and an array of lighting bars. There was a good lighting plot throughout the performance that had been designed by Dan Thompson that lit up the night, literally.


The humour of pantomime dialogue is very much in the timing! Darren Cooper gave an accomplished and confident performance as Widow Twankey, who interestingly, had his own catch phrase to engage with the audience. He delivered the dialogue with gusto, humour and great timing. He had a host of costumes to change into throughout, culminating in a very grandiose Chinese Pergola.


Another excellent, engaging performance was by Connor Wyse (Wishee Washee). This young actor had the audience with him from the word go. His energy on stage was infectious and his engagement and comic timing was excellent.


Graham Fletcher-Shaw and Geoff Lunn added to the comedic mayhem as the two police officers, Hu Dun Pong and Yu Dun Wong, delivering all the associated word silliness that their names invoke.


Jake Ridgway (Aladdin), Mhairi Jennings (Princess Mandarin), Lisa Quin (Spirit of the Ring), Barry Jarvis(The Emperor) and Amelia Jennings (So-Shy) sang, danced and kept the plot on track.


Every pantomime needs a goody and a baddy character that the audience can cheer and boo. In Angela Hulme (Genie of the Lamp) and Sam Bolton (Abanazar) we got just that. Angela sang most of her dialogue and Sam didn’t overplay the nastiness of his character, but we didn’t want to warm to him from the start.


The makeup, for the whole cast was excellent and especially so for these two characters. The Genie in blue with matching blue/gold face makeup was spectacular and really contributed to the character’s persona. Equally, the shading that was on Sam’s face really gave him a gaunt and evil look. The makeup design by Pauline Rowe and Louise Aitken was superb.


In pantomime, as with any theatrical presentation, it is so important not to let voice projection drop, as dialogue can be missed. Urgency in vocal delivery helps to enhance the portrayal of a character and keeps the momentum bubbling along.


The director and stage manager, Sean Stennings and Terry Barber respectively, must be very proud of how all the elements of this pantomime came together. This production was of a standard that would put some professional ones to shame.