By Jon Fox
Whatever should a company do when it boasts two Idle Jacks? Why, start the show with them both on stage in a comic repartee scene of course, what else! Barry Harrison-Fudge (Fudge to all) was Idle Jack in this instance and his “brother” Chris Dews shared the run. Fudge was a mesmeric presence throughout this production, showing professional polish, comic timing, in fact the lot!
Dick Whittington was well played by Jo McInnes giving a sterling performance. Mollie Fraser as Alice Fitzwarren, in love with Dick, was also a splendid Alice. The pivotal Dame part of Sarah the Cook was played in charismatic style with good timing and vocal clarity by Charlie McLean, whose sole previous acting experience apparently was playing a dead body! Where have you been hiding your talent all this time Charlie? And why?
Tom the Cat, athletic and heroic with feline grace was excellently played by Sophie Shickell, radiating stage presence and making a marvellous foil for Dick. The spitefully horrible Queen Rat – no less effective for not being a King Rat – was given frightening reality by the capable hands, and tail, of Nicki Payne. Rats got a hard time from we humans. Well this one gave the humans on stage a hard time and the show was much the more enjoyable for it.
Julia Allan Patel and Sharon Welland were the comic bad double act Rot and Stench respectively, showing good comic timing and much comedic acting. The scene in the sea with the driftwood was top class.
Julia Heathcote was a delight as Fairy Bow Belle, her Dame Edna spectacles, pink ballet tutu and droopy wand, together with an excellent comic flair meant that she really stood out in what was a special performance.
Barrie Heathcote as Alderman Fitzwarren and living firmly in Old London Town, long before the days of easy travel, was nevertheless from “oop North” and “reet gradely” he was too. His accent brought some distinct character to what is usually a less rewarding part to play.
Two highly experienced actors – and it showed – in Wendy Davies and Peter Bradley, played Dora and Harry with practised ease.
Some amusing antics were charismatically played between Louisa Worby as Queen Megabazooma and Fee Fraser as the High Priestess “red-carded” by the Queen for overacting. In panto! I suppose, had she been underacting – as I see to my horror all too frequently upon the amateur stage – she would have won a medal. Great comedy and, of course, actually a compliment. How I despair though at those who don’t act enough! There were none in this show, I am pleased to report!
Fabian Cole did well as the ship’s Captain. Julie Edwards made a distinct impression as the horrible Stenchess and also doing well was Lucy Payne as Rat.
Rosie Bishop, Lottie Welland and William Wood in chorus parts added sterling support.
The singing was enthusiastic, mostly tuneful, well put over and, most importantly, of all featured well-known tunes. Not all amateur pantos obey this important rule.
Some energetic and well rehearsed routines were set by the choreography team of Wendy and Sophie.
Musical Director Simon Fraser, who wrote and adapted many lyrics, together with his three piece band, gave sterling support to the enthusiastic singers, some of whom were more talented at singing than others, but the overall standard was a good one.
Experienced show director Marian Heathcote had packed plenty of enjoyable comedy business in this rattlingly good production. How good to see slosh in an amateur panto; always an essential part of traditional panto, but sadly often lacking these days. I loved the rats comic dialogue while clinging to some driftwood upon the sea. Sarah’s false beard and seagull in her blue wig was good panto as was the marvellous under the sea scene. Most effective!
The South Sea Island scene was a real highlight with colourful frocks and fabulous feather headdresses. Bright colours and glitz is so necessary and in this show we had it in all its glory.
I also much liked Jack’s red with green trim costume with his baseball cap worn backwards. As if there is any other way! The dramatic storm scene was well carried out and more real drama was achieved in the hypnosis scene. As ever and in true panto tradition , Dick and the beautiful Alice fell in love in mere seconds.
Lighting by Carl Osborne and sound with full effects by Bill Pilcher added much to the overall effect.
Anne Lyth made sure all costumes were correctly well fitted. Hair and make up, some of it quite special, was in the capable hands of Nicki and Sophie. Well done all you ladies!
Meg Bray stage managed and with her willing team the many set changes ran smoothly.
A special word of praise for the informative programme with quality pics and , glory be, a comprehensive page devoted to NODA and our aims. This is enough to gladden the heart of any NODA rep!
In all, this production was a pacy, colourful and well enacted show ensuring that traditional pantomime is very much alive and thriving in deepest Surrey.