written by Barry Crossley

Directed by Daniel Oliver-Grant

Hyde Little Theatre


A Panto in June!

“Oh not it wasn’t!”

“Oh yes it was!”


After a wait of over 18 months it was my pleasure to step back inside a Theatre again to watch a show but one with a difference, a filmed version of the pantomime with a hybrid of engaging with characters, all done with Corvid restrictions of course.


No-one would have thought back in March 2019 that theatres would have to close to performances beyond the summer of that year and so Hyde Little Theatre, along with many others, would have expected to put on their annual offering to entertain the public during dreary December. To that aim, auditions via electronic means were held for dancers and principals with the view that come the autumn face to face rehearsals would ensue but as we know, this was not to be the case.


So, what is the answer? Do you decide not to go ahead with the project and disappoint a lot of people who would understand or look to continue in some other way? The committee of this theatre group chose the latter option. Using the skills that members possessed they decided to create a film version. The effort must have been immense and all the back stage and technical people involved should take a bow, especially Daniel and Steven Oliver-Grant, who I am reliably told spent over 700 hours editing and adding sparkly effects to the finished product.


This filmed version did remind me of The Slipper and the Rose film. Capesthorne Hall added the backdrop for scenes both inside and outside. While there were 15 scenes, each of these had been story boarded to add detail to character movement, dance routines and interaction. At times Daniel’s direction was reminiscent of music videos that one would see on Top of the Pops. The song choices were well chosen and relatively modern and showed off some impressive vocal skills. The added dimension of aerial shots from the use of drone technology really added another dimension for the outside dance routines which clearly showed the required spacing to comply with government guidelines.


The evening showing, a buzz of panto filled the auditorium as adults and children waited in anticipation to see the final product of all their efforts. In the pre-screening various characters from the celluloid appeared behind castle wall facades at the side of stage to whip the audience to a frenzy and encouraged participation. While, on the main stage a screen was ready to show the main feature.


The cinematography was clear and sound by Adrian and Martin Webber was well synchronised. The choreography by Clare Pascoe and Sue Bradbury was energetic and well thought out, I’m sure there had to be tweaks to the original versions due to restrictions. Some very special effects were used in post-production to enhance the staging.


For panto, the key aspect is the connection with the audience that is key. The actors, who I believe were divided into teams for the nightly performances, certainly worked hard behind their walled windows and projected as loud as they could to be heard.  Both on film and on stage they strived tirelessly to give the production energy. At times the acting came across very like the old silent movies where the actors made movements and certainly facial expressions twice as big as they normally would.


Jake Ridgway (Muddles) really did give this production his all. He was very expressive and had good timing in dialogue delivery, giving an opportunity for the audience to react. This must have been very difficult to judge when filming but he made it look effortless. Throughout he looked to be having a ball and made every effort to include prat falls in his comedy. His vocal delivery in song was also strong.


Similarly, Simon Sullivan (Nurse Nelly) engaged well with the audience in his live segments. In this particular panto this character didn’t have a lot of screen time but when he did there was good, expressive, slow and deliberate vocal delivery. Normally I like a swift pace in dialogue but this approach worked well. Some of the other character’s dialogue got lost in speedier delivery.


We always need a baddie to boo and Gavin Chadwick’s Carabosse worked a treat. The costume and makeup (as with all the characters) was great. He oozed evilness and horrid intent. He worked the audience with menace. If ever anyone needs an evil Miss Hanigan, go no further. Sofia Butterworth was the counterpoint to this. She looked and sounded the part of the good Fairy Stardust.


For me, the Prince Valiant character stands on the delivery of a good Dorothy Ward thigh slap and Jem Marshall-Ayre did not disappoint. She worked well opposite Kat Rawling, the Princess Aurora. There was great singing from both of them in a duet and solo songs.


Kimberley Ross and Karen Schofield (Spit and Polish) worked hard to convey the slap stick humour that a comedy duo can convey. Paul Wood (King Putupon), Daniel Cope Aimey Saxon (Lord and Lady Chamber pot) all added to the mayhem and fun that is pantomime though these characters would find it easier to build a rapport with a live audience.


Some of the song choices really did make one listen. You will be found was delightfully sang by Kat Rawling but was made all the more poignant when Paul Wood contributed a harmonising vocal. Similarly, one of the youth chorus – Oliver delivered a super cameo and song.


This was a hybrid, immersive experience of projected film and in person character and everyone must be so pleased that there was a good, finished performance at the end of a very long wait. Though, like me, I bet everyone cannot wait to get front and centre in front of a live audience and have fun both for those in the audience and onstage, after all that is Pantomime!