Association of Community Theatre


written and directed by Barbara Harris

Players Youth Theatre


What a night, what a party, what a pantomime! This self-penned production showed everything that is good about youth theatre. The director, Barbara Harris, had not only written this pantomime but had also drilled the cast of 12 to 18 year olds, with assistance from Rob McGregor, and the result was a thoroughly enjoyable evening at the theatre.


While this was not what you would call a traditional pantomime we met favourite characters from different pantomimes that reside in Pantoland. There were baddies to boo and goodies to cheer and lots of opportunity for audience participation. The communal singing of the ‘Grand Old Duke of York’ was great fun, with plenty of stand up and sit down action. I am not sure my knees have recovered yet.


Nemone Wolfendale was confident as the good fairy, Crystal Bell, and spoke fabulously in rhyme, and along with her helpers, Fairy Soap and Pixie Lot, otherwise known as Sam Higgs and Sarah Mather, kept the evil Fairy Nuff in check. Sarah Morgan was excellent as the evil fairy. She encouraged the audience to boo and wasn’t put off at all, in fact she conducted the audience well, and instinctively knew when to quieten them and move on with the script. Of course, in the interests of equality, Sarah was helped along with her evil plans by Plan and Hatchit, City and United fans respectively. Both Anamika Chow and Eliza Godfrey provided the dumbness and bumbling of this piece that would thwart the plans of their boss.


The script centred around Dick Whittington who had left his home to find his fortune in Headle Chulme. Abby Walmsley was well cast in the role of principal girl. She looked and acted the part with confidence, together with the traditional thigh slap. She was confident in her role and gave a strong performance. On the journey through Pantoland her character meets the lovely Alice Fitzwarren. Lily Rimmer was lovely as the innocent, Alice, who falls in love with Dick Whittington, much to the chagrin of Aladdin Trott, played by James Schilling. He was very much the put out, sulking, despondent other boy for Alice, but as ever, all turns out in the end.


Pantomime is a theatrical genre that requires audience participation, and often revolves around certain characters such as the Dame, a silly character, and the previously mentioned, goodies and baddies.


For Harry Bailey this was a first credible portrayal of the pantomime dame, Widow Trott. He engaged with the audience, pouted and moved his chest up and flirted with members of the audience. While there are skills to work on, such as pace, voice and facial expressions, he did very well and I am sure this will not be his last foray into this type of role in the years to come.


The silly duo were Alex Priestly and Toby Metcalf, as the two police constables, Ben and Dover, which provided much chuckling when their exasperated Sergeant, Izzy Ekgren, called for them. All three gave confident performances and Toby was excellent with his cheeky flirtations with the on stage keyboard player, Margaret Williams. He also delighted us with a tune played on the ukulele. He is a talented young man.


Other characters, played by Liam Stuckey, Naomi Hunter, Danielle Higson-Dibb and Phebe Clase, all added to the fun of the performance.


Li Chow was great as Jack Trott. He had the majority of dialogue and impressed with his delivery of every line. He projected his voice and his diction was absolutely clear. He bonded with the audience from the very start, and had a great catch phrase which meant we all joined in with him every time he came on stage. He interacted well with the audience, though he, and others, did have a tendency to look down to the people in the first three rows. Li was superb and mature, especially towards the end, when the children from the audience joined the cast on stage for a song. There was a feeling of care and support, and he was able to ad-lib and respond to them individually.


The staging, lighting and scenery was limited but this didn’t really matter as the focus was always on the players. At the end Pam Lambert was thanked, quite rightly, for all the hard work she had put into costuming the production. Congratulations to Nicky McGregor and Margaret Williams who coached the singers and played the keyboard on stage, and also joined in the banter, especially with Toby.


Youth drama is not a collection of people who are the finished article; it is a journey for them. A journey to develop the love of theatre and establish skills that can be developed as the actors gain experience. To do this effectively, the young players must feel comfortable and safe with the adults who are giving them tuition and opportunities to express themselves, and this came across the footlights. From Toby’s interactions with Margaret, Harry’s comments to Barbara in the audience, Sarah’s handling of the baddie boos, and Li getting the audience to take part, there was a sense that these young players were relaxed and confident in what they do.


One of the benefits of establishing this ethos is that this group of young actors were very supportive of each on stage. If someone was in the wrong space, someone else would guide them to where they should be so the scene could run smoothly. If someone forgot dialogue, others were quick to help get them back on track. This is probably due to the amount of improvisation sessions they take part in and the guidance they receive, and are supported in from those who dedicate their time and energy to nurturing them. There is a great sense of camaraderie from the members of Players Youth.


Well done!