THE highly-experienced TAPS group staged a very intriguing show for their 30th anniversary. The script took enormous liberties with Lewis Carroll’s story, but in an effective way.
After the usual warm and witty greeting from Ken Wheadon, Natalie Diamond was presented as the White Rabbit, our host, lively and engaging with the audience, and guided through the convoluted plot.
Lesley Speed was a winning and sympathetic heroine, Alice, and Katie Gaylard was the Prince Valentino; they are both very experienced pantomimers, and demonstrated their larger than life characters, making the most of the stage space and singing beautifully.
Neil Gaylard in his now totally traditional role as the Dame – Gladys was a very powerful stage presence, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, a comic duo with excellent exaggerated costumes were very funny and comic timing was spot on.
Emma Hodder and Kelly Foote improve as actors every time I see them - I’d love them to try more serious roles sometime.
The Panto Tatworthies are also very good at giving the more minor roles importance and individuality.
Kim Gaylard was excellent as Valentino’s valet, and Bob Hilton re-visited his glam-rock days enthusiastically as the Cheshire Cat.
Jackie Legg was a very vicious executioner, and Kieran Riste as a suitably pompous ‘palace gardener’ who’s status changes!
I don’t know what your views are on immigration, but I didn’t hear anybody say ‘These people from Cats, come here and take all our jobs’.
Again, the experience of Angie Davies, Grant Davies and Debbie Hilton really added an extra dimension to the whole show.
Angie, Queen of Hearts, does Evil very well - chilling and beautifully timed.
Debbie was brilliant as the bratty Princess Incontinentia (a name more Carry On than Lewis Carroll) and Grant was superb in the beautifully realized role as the Mad Hatter. Not at all camp(!) but frighteningly believable!
The younger people in the cast also had some good moments; Laura Glenn as young Alice, Wylyam Speed as the dormouse, Rosie Bolton as the voice of the jewel and Brittany Hodder as the March Hare.
There were some very strong sequences; the Blind Date piece worked well (Angie parodying Cilla Black), as did the wonderfully anarchic Mad Hatter’s song; and the section in the prison was inventive.
The chorus worked well together, although they looked rather nervous in the opening sequence.
Lighting by Pete Tidy was very smooth and inventive in the UV sections.
The band served the cast well, and Simon Speed was as always an excellent stage manager.
Ellen Deaves and team provided the beautifully colour coordinated costume that described the characters wearing them - the red theme at the end was very dramatic!
I saw a dress rehearsal, so there were a few glitches, but I’m sure, knowing this group as I do, these would have been all ironed out.
Finally, well done to the Directors Kim Gaylard and Lesley Speed - a (Tat)worthy show to celebrate 30 years!