LOCAL pantomimes rely on a dedicated and hardworking team – usually revolving round a family.
This was evident in Chardstock’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’, with the highly experienced Williamsons in charge.
I have already seen a different version of this a week or so ago, but the beauty of pantomime is that no two interpretations are alike – this company performed a very original version of this show.
There was much to like about this piece. Harry the Jester hosted our journey in a very dynamic mode.
Sarah Williamson was dynamic and energetic, and excellent with the capacity audience. John Williamson, as the Dame Winifred also had an excellent relationship with characters on stage and audience, being a lot less raucous and a bit more subtle. (If is that possible for a Dame!)
The principal boy and girl, Rose and William, played by Megan Voysey and Hope Mortimer had a great deal of charm; their fragile relationship which later became more serious was well realised by two of the youngest girls I have seen in those roles. Well done to them!
Becky Larcombe as the witch Deadly Nightshade ably aided by the Baldric like Snivel started off quietly sinister, and then emerged into total evil mode.
Very scary, although being turned into a snake didn’t give the witch a chance to redeem herself (as happens in the other version).
The King, Jonathan Milford, was suitable regal yet dominated by the forceful and dynamically played by Nicola Boxall.
The three fairies were a good device, especially the non- rhyming incompetent Lupin, played by Naomi Boxall.
There were a few strong minor parts – Charlie Portlock as Captain Forsyth and Richard Boxall as Chief Cannibal. I have always felt uncomfortable about racial stereotyping in shows, but then I realised the cannibal sequence was actually sending up racial stereotyping!
Young people are often used as Chorus, but the director wisely gave many of them cameo roles as refugees from other fairy tales. These were very confidently played by Sophie McDonald, Jessica Richards, Emma Garratt, Misha Taylor,Caitlin Jackson, Laina Gibson and Katie Richards.
And very noticeable and convincing Old Sea Dog by Ady Goff.
There were some very good moments – the hacking through the undergrowth featured a grat combination of plant puppetry, sound and lighting effects – and I enjoyed the Dame with a vacuum cleaner strapped to her back as a ghostbuster.
The chase sequences and audience participation sequences were well crafted, and the cake making scene showed what care must be taken when performing slapstick.
I had a minor issue with the music – the pre-recorded pieces were very loud, and on occasion it seemed that some singers were a little uncertain. There needed to be more congruence between recorded and live music. The singers also needed more amplification.
The Costumes were superb – three changes per person? They were very colourful and appropriate. Set changing and stage management was smooth and professional, and technical effects were assured and imaginative.
Chris Williamson, the director is to be congratulated in pulling together a cast with many different talents, and also respecting and giving opportunities for younger people – this needs to happen more in local drama.