For a number of years one or two decades ago it seemed to have become unfashionable to put on a Pantomime by Amateur Companies. The BCP started to have ’Christmas’ children’s plays instead – such as: ’Pinocchio’, ’The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’, ’Peter Pan’ and ’Toad of Toad
Hall’. The general public who wanted to go back to traditional ’Panto’ for children became a bit disillusioned by professional pantomimes in big towns and cities roundabout, because some of them were rather crude and rude, employing double entendre jokes.
The excuse often was that the real meaning would go over the kids’ heads. This is no longer true for the present younger generation, brought up with dreadful ’comedy’ presented on T.V. It is therefore a pleasure to take children to a great fun ’Panto’ in which they can participate with what their family (with surprise, perhaps, nowadays?) consider to be good clean and stirring fun. No matter that to some adults some of it is a bit corny and punridden this still really makes children’s bellies rumble with delight!
We entered the auditorium – already crowded with children by 2 p.m. we found ourselves in a conventionally western conceived idea of China – silk banners, Chinese writing, bright colours, very Chinese
music and what looked to me like a typical Hong Kong market. Here I must praise Peter Bloor and the whole set-building team for the imaginative, colourful and very slickly changed scenery throughout and also to Jane Shanahan, for a fantastic medley of eclectic costumes – scene after scene causing delight
and surprise. In fact the whole technical side was of a very high standard – lighting, sound, and special effects (such as the geniis appearances which were loved by the children!).
It was a dramatic beginning with Abanazar (Colin Galloway) high above the set in green light and his great stage presence and wonderfully fruity voice – toned to sound
delightfully evil – had an immediate affect on the children which switched with amazement as the slave of the ring (Debby Andrews)
flashed into sight and gave a speech clearly heard by all, giving anticipation of things to come.
Then the real Panto started with a very catchy ’Supermarket in Pekin’, with a well sung chorus and a lovely colourful seething of song and dance, which all told us how much we were going to enjoy ourselves, as obviously the whole cast were and continued to please us throughout a show with well
thought-out and played music (thank you)
Aladdin (Michelle Jackson) is a good-looking and shapely girl, acted in a very believable way, but does need to watch her speed of speaking, particularly at the end of speeches when she tended to throw away some of her words and now and then, when excited, gabbled a little – this will improve with experience if she is aware of it.
Widow Twankey (Nik Lester) – an old BCP
hand – was excellent and did not look either
like a large man in drag or a pansy and carried out marvellous comedy and made us believe in ’her’ though knowing well ’she’ was a ’he’ – he had developed a great technique to get our empathy, although being silly, and the audience were with him all the way. As for Wishee Washee (David Smith) – he still looks as young as he was when I first met him many years ago and had such enthusiasm and charisma that he had the children shouting with excitement every time he appeared.
The Grand Vizier (Dave Robinson) and the Emperor (Lee Dwyer) were both enjoyable characters, as was the genie of the lamp (Adrian Gillett). Princess Badroulbador (Alice Woodhall) has a very sweet personality, but needed to concentrate a bit more on projection out to the audience – I still enjoyed her character very much and that of her companion, SoShy (Michelle Mirams). All the Handmaidens, Citizens and Guards etc., carried out pleasant and disciplined performances for which I am sure we have to thank Director, Liz Riley for her firm hand on such a large cast and variety of tasks she had to supervise, which she did with great élan.
This is exactly the sort of show the populace of Banbury needs at this time of year, which was shown by their attendance. You never know, next year you may have to extend the ’Run’!
Thank you BCP for giving so many people so much pleasure!
We had fun and laughter both rehearsing and performing Aladdin – it was a joy to be part
of the cast (despite being poorly for the last week of performances)! Well done Liz for creating
such a lovely atmosphere at rehearsals and for putting on a really superb play. I
hope you weren’t serious when you said you’ll be ready to direct again in ten years time!
We weren’t that bad!!!
Debby Andrews – Prompt Please January 2006