I should begin by explaining that the regular contributors who normally write these articles were unavailable on this occasion and consequently we were asked if we would write the review ourselves. I volunteered as I had had no involvement in this Pantomime, apart from watching it as a member of the Front of House Staff for the last three performances so hopefully my review will be objective. I have also attempted to follow the style of the previous articles which has been to describe rather than criticise.
Firstly, I think it is true to say that The Chameleon Pantomimes are a wonderful collaboration between Audience and Cast. All the work and preparation that goes into the production comes to life during the run inspired and energised by connection between the performers and the audience which results in a unique experience each performance. It simply would not be possible to generate the “X Factor” which makes the shows so enjoyable without an appreciative audience so plaudits in large measure to the audiences who obviously enjoyed the performances.
Plaudits also in large measure to Director Gillian Wilkins who chose the script written by Damien Trasler, David Lovesy and Steven Clark and selected an excellent cast who brought it to life. There was something for everyone in the songs she chose and the renditions were pretty decent for a group which otherwise has no involvement in Musical Theatre.
Needless to say, there were some embellishments and additions to the original tale without departing too much from the story line. It began in the traditional way with the Bad Fairy – Poison Ivy played by Marilyn Dunbar and the Good Fairy – Fairy Beansprout played by Liz Strevens competing in rhyme from opposite sides of the stage. Good lighting effects and spectacular costumes and make up.
Probably not in the original story was the impoverished King , played by Wayne Bradshaw who propelled his own sedan chair.
His Prime minister – Matt Costen was obliged to fulfil a variety of other official posts due to “a shortage of funds”. These included Chief of the Army, Navy and Airforce as well Rent Collector and Royal Trumpeter. Matt Costen gave each of these cameo roles a distinctive character, signalling the changes by producing a different hat. However, he was never a hard nosed politician and the scene when he and the King are overcome with remorse at the harsh actions they are forced to take against the villagers was very well done, especially when the Village Idiot joined in the group hug/cry in who, when asked why he was wailing so loudly explained that they were standing on his foot!
Dozy Den, the Village Idiot played by Terry James is a regular favourite in Chameleon Pantos and soon struck up a rapport with the audience. He had his own Cameo role in a send up of “Dickinson’s Real Deal” auction scene which went at breath taking pace and was clever and funny, at the same time. “Don’t get too close folks, this fake tan rubs off!” he quipped.
The chorus did sterling work in the group scenes, they were animated without being distracting and their stage composition and choreography showed the Directors clever use of the limited space. Their backing of Poison Ivy’s song “I’m bad” was particularly well done (changing the refrain ” She’s really really Bad” to “She’s really really Old”) as a “last night prank” to the amusement of all, even the hapless Poison Ivy who obviously struggled to suppress her reaction.
Another group number which worked well was an adaptation of “One more Angel in Heaven” from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat to “One more Slave in the Oven” in the Giants Kitchen scene where Jan Bradshaw as the Housekeeper showed her talent for comedy both in song and dialogue. ” I tried to escape once by tying sheets together and throwing them out of the window. I suppose I should have tied them to something in the room first!” she added ruefully.
The Giant, played by Dave Collins for the latter part of the run, made his entrance (long awaited by my Grandchildren). His larger than life appearance and powerful delivery had them ducking for cover!
His Golden Harp, was another example of a cleverly constructed striking gold costume forming strings from extended arm to ankle. Alliegha Apperlby who played this part adds this role to a number of other very successful credits in Chameleon Pantomimes.
Her sister Izzy took on the role of the cow – another imaginative choice of costume as we had an “upright” cow instead of the more traditional four legged “front end/back end”. It worked very well and the duet with Jack was quite charming.
Lisa Dunbar played the slightly dimwitted but lovable Jack to perfection with nice touches of comedy (I particularly enjoyed her ironic delivery “They call me Jack, the Giant Killer” with a suitable heroic pose in spotlight.)
Kayleigh Fagence as Princess Rose, Jack’s love interest gave an assured performance with some well delivered witty asides and of course the obligatory duet which was well done.
Dave Wilkins as Dame Trott gave a strong performance throughout including extremely energetic delivery of the songs. His ad lib asides to the audience added zest to the experience and made the evening all the more enjoyable.
The sets, scenic backdrops props (great beanstalk!) and special effects were the handywork of the whole company but Terry James (Dozy Den) deserves special mention as the creator of the “artwork”.
Image credit: All images of the show are by Stuart Wineberg.