Panto is still king... oh yes it is!

PUBLISHED: 09:33 18 February 2010 | UPDATED: 12:48 10 June 2010

THE joys of village pantomime were in plentiful supply at Newton Poppleford Village Hall with children, teenagers, young adults and seasoned campaigners all contributing to the considerable success of the Riverside Players

THE joys of village pantomime were in plentiful supply at Newton Poppleford Village Hall with children, teenagers, young adults and seasoned campaigners all contributing to the considerable success of the Riverside Players' Dick Whittington, written by Alan Frayn and deftly directed by Tricia Barclay.

Tanya Christopher made a cracking thigh-slapping hero Dick Whittington, who came to London seeking his fortune.

Her acting was most engaging and she looked a treat. The beautiful Becca Cardwell made a radiant and adorable Alice, Dick's true love. They made a perfect principal pair, pleasing to the eye and providing real romantic interest. I loved their duets Getting to Know You and Me and My Girl - even if the cat didn't! Cute cat Tom, Dick's fantastic feline friend, was charmingly portrayed by talented young actress Freya Bramble, whose solo Memories was from Cats.

Plenty of fun came from Leigh Steedman with skill and confidence belying his tender years in the dame role as Dolly Dumpling and Tim Bornet, who struck up a remarkable rapport with the audience as Dolly the cook's brother Idle Jack, who kept on having to pull up his socks. There was further hilarity from the excellent double act of Nick Bussian as straight man Captain Cuttle (with parrot that Geoff Tenney pointed out was ambidextrous!) and Paul Kinson as his simple sidekick Scupper.

A remarkable performance came from Steve Yarnall as repulsive King Rat, who apparently originated from the Midlands. He and his revolting young rats, superbly played by Oran Bramble, Callum Burns, Alistair and Richard Papworth and Reuben Raffell, harassed and taunted the audience, tricked Alderman Fitzwarren into thinking Dick was a thief and caused a shipwreck. Their King Rat rap was memorable. Megan Bentham, Mia Bramble, Ellie-Mae Burns, Jenny Cardwell, Imy Hewitt, Eleanor Willows and Harvey Cardwell were show-stealers as Baby Rats. The rats represented evil most effectively but met their match in Fairy Bowbells, played with real aplomb by Janet Farrow.

David Pomeroy and Stephanie Kinson gave sound performances as Alderman and Mrs Fitzwarren and Henry Gooding made an all too rare stage appearance playing the Sultan of Morocco with real authority.

Choreographer Lauren Barclay did a first rate job. I especially enjoyed the company's vibrant You Can't Stop the Beat from Hairspray. She was also responsible for a superb UV underwater scene. Musical maestro John Griswold was in fine form on the keyboard, even enjoying some Brummie banter with King Rat.

The youngsters' chorus of Jasmine Bramble, Tiffany Clay, Jamie Emery and Safi and Sam Smith were impressive with numbers like Consider Yourself and Who Will Buy? and the comedy routine mop drill aboard ship.

Another super comedy routine with Alderman, Dolly, Jack, Captain and Scupper providing frantic actions in If I were not... was a real show stopper.

Dick's dream scene was another highlight in a great panto, complete with some terrific twirling of the Sword of Office by Tiffany Clay.

Thanks to Tom and Fairy Bowbells, the rats were defeated, Dick's dreams came true and he married Alice.

Sterling work by stage manager David Jeffrey, professional lighting and sound by Tony Hill, of Light Touch Design, and colourful costumes and scenery all further enhanced a super panto.

Well done and thanks to Tricia Barclay and the Riverside Players for showing us why panto is still king. Oh yes it is!

Roger Simmonds

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