Image Credit: A big thank you to The Chameleon Theatre Group for kind permission to use their excellent photos. The images of the programme cover and the cast (from the pantomime programme) were taken by Allison Symes.
What do Camille Saint-Saens, Eddie Cochran, Queen, Bob Marley, and Sir Elton John have in common?
Not an awful lot, you may be thinking, but they did all have their music included in Atlantis – The Panto, which was recently staged by the ever excellent Chameleon Theatre Group.
I’ll share a song list later but the answer to my question tells you the music for the show was an eclectic mix, as it should be. There should be something for everyone to enjoy in a panto musically as well as in the jokes and storyline.
Atlantis – The Panto was written by Paul Reakes. It ran at the Ritchie Hall from Friday 17th – Saturday 25th January 2020, and was directed by Sheila Hardiman.
Janet and I went on Thursday, 24th January and a great time was had by all, one of many signs of a wonderful panto. I’ll share a few more signs later.
Pantomimes and Fairytales
A classic pantomime is often based on fairytales for several reasons:-
1. Everyone knows the story. Part of the fun in panto is knowing why the jokes work. You need to know the story for that.
2. The fairytales have strong and clear plot lines with obvious goodies and baddies.
3. Fairytales are open to sub-plots. For example, the story of Widow Twankey is not the main part of the Aladdin story. It’s good fun though and the character has become a brilliant one to use as the pantomime Dame – dodgy wig, over the top clothes, and make up that has to be seen to be believed. But where you have a sub-plot, you can add in characters, gags, including running ones throughout the show, and pantomimes love those.
4. Happy ever after endings, which are a must for panto, are a strong point for fairytales.
And panto plays its part in keeping fairytales alive.
So I was intrigued to know what Atlantis – The Panto was all about. Yes, the legend of Atlantis is obviously a major link but I did wonder how you could get an entertaining pantomime from that. It is a grim tale after all. Pantos must entertain above all else as it has a wide audience to hook.
But all was revealed and there are undercurrents, appropriately enough, of classic fairytales in this story. There’s a wicked witch (aka a sorceress called Surpia), a girl whose true identity is hidden (a common theme to many Shakespeare plays too so ya boo sucks to all those who look down on pantomime – there are deeper cultural links here than you might think), a “prince” (Lord Valentine) needing to rescue the girl from the sorceress and her enchantments (think Sleeping Beauty here and elements of Snow White).
The story is Surpia, the Sorceress, has invaded the fabulous undersea kingdom of Atlantis. The baby, Princess Coral, has been taken away to safety, to Surpia’s annoyance. Surpia has imprisoned the King and Queen of Atlantis and wants the Princess to “have the set”. Why not just kill the royal parents? Because Surpia wants the conquered to know they’ve been conquered and they need to be alive for that.
I have to say Surpia, as portrayed by Lisa Dunbar had the manic laugh spot on! Incidentally in the behind the scenes cast photo, look at who was clearly still very much in character here. Surpia’s frown tells its own tale!
Surpia also has a grotesque slave called Croak, who is half man, half frog, and distinctly ugly with it! The character was well played by Clare Britton and her laugh had the right combination of snide crossed with nastiness.
After searching for twenty years, Surpia finds Coral in the seaside village of Portaloo, where Coral has been adopted by Florrie Flotsam (played by Nick Coleman) as her daughter, Faye.
When Surpia kidnaps Faye, Florrie and her family (Frankie Flotsam and his girlfriend, Lilly,), together with the handsome Lord Valentine (who has fallen in love with Faye) and Captain Capstan (played by Stuart Wineberg), set sail to rescue her.
(Anyone remember Capstan Full Strength incidentally as that was the first thing I thought of when I heard the name? ).
Florrie has taken a shine to the good captain, though he is horrified at the thought! He changes his mind later and admits he likes the “cut of ‘her’ jib”.
Surpia uses all her evil powers to thwart them but somehow the motley crew manage to evade the perils, which included sharks and the Kraken. The appearance of the sharks was a cue for a quick play of the theme from Jaws by the fantastic John Williams. It is not my favourite piece by him (partly because I am really not keen on sharks!) but I heard a great interview where he talked about writing this score from the viewpoint of the shark. Have a listen to the piece with that in mind and you will hear what he means. It makes the music even more chilling.
The King of Atlantis – Mike Morris
The Queen of Atlantis – Sarah Phipps
Zardoc – Dave Collis
Faye Flotsam aka Princess Coral – Fiona Winchester
Florrie Flotsam – Nick Coleman
Frankie Flotsam – Terry James
Lilly – Liz Strevens
Surpia – Lisa Dunbar
Croak – Clare Britton
Lord Valentine – Kaleigh Fagence
Captain Capstan – Stuart Wineberg
Plus the chorus – Sian Hayden, Lesley James, Liz Finbow, Tiffany Mattera, Jenny Wineberg, Sian Davidson, Lauren Griffiths, Evie Lakin, Jemima Lockley-Boyd, Paige Harden.
The singing was excellent throughout the show and yes the audience did join in. Well done, everybody!
Camille Saint-Saens – Aquarium from The Carnival of the Animals and used beautifully at the start of the panto to set the scene. Music is brilliant for mood and scene setting and this piece was used effectively here.
Eddie Cochran – Three Steps to Heaven
Running from the Storm – Gary Moore
I’m Still Standing – Elton John
Jaws – John Williams
Bob Marley – Three Little Birds. (I always thought this was called Don’t Worry. In some ways it would’ve been ironic had it been. It came on after the theme from Jaws! If you had just had encounters with sharks, you would worry, assuming you were still about to do so!).
It’s a Kind of Magic – Queen
Octopus’s Garden– The Beatles – This became an excellent sing along with the audience.
Oh What a Night – Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons
Hopelessly Devoted To You (from Grease) – Olivia Newton John
A sign of a “good” villain is how well the audience boos them. Surpia was booed brilliantly and Croak came in for “her” fair share of that too but rightly so. People talk about “pantomime villains” rather disparagingly but (a) the panto needs them for the story to to work and (b) the acting of those in the villainous roles has to convince the audience enough to make them want to boo! You can’t have a pantomime villain falling flat and not engaging with the audience, any more than you can the Dame.
Florrie Flotsam’s outfits, make-up, and wigs were truly a sight to be seen and well done to Nick Coleman for carrying that off well.
Surpia’s manic laugh as it rightly had all the tones of a power crazed obsessive about it! (My sympathies go to Lisa Dunbar here incidentally. That laugh must have been hard on the larnyx!).
Signs of a good panto:-
1. Lots of laughs. Box ticked here!
2. Dreadful puns – and loads of them. Box definitely ticked here. (Portaloo for a start! I know the next time I’m walking around Chandler’s Ford and I see one of those things, I will think of this panto!).
3. Physical comedy usually involving props – The Kraken’s tentacles and it is probably best I leave it there. The burp at the end coming from The Kraken was quite something though.
4. Someone HAS to say “it’s behind you” at some point (though quite how that is going to work in an underwater setting, I was keen to find out! And I did. It was said).
5. There will be a Dame with a very dodgy wig and over the top makeup. (And the setting can be anywhere from underwater to outer space and you’ll still have this! Cue Nick Coleman…).
6. There will also be a male lead played by a woman – in this case Lord Valentine played by Kayleigh Fagence.
6. Jokes the kids won’t get but you will. Oh yes you will… (Loved those as I always do but then I am a fan of I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue and there are some very dodgy gags there).
7. Some references to today’s culture (pop songs, who is taking part in X Factor etc. Most of that will go over my head. I have no interest whatsoever in X Factor but I’ll pick things up from context). Again box ticked.
8. A total lack of subtlety – you definitely don’t go to any panto if you want deep feeling. You go because you want lots of belly laughs! Atlantis – The Panto and the Chameleons definitely delivered there!
9. A longer term result of a good panto is when kids especially are more willing to go to the theatre later on because they adored going to panto. Christopher Biggins mentioned panto creates the future theatre audiences on a recent edition of Pointless Celebrities. He’s right on that.
10. Everyone leaves having had a fab time, and that goes for the cast too!
Well done to all at The Chameleons. Already looking forward to your next production.
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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