Image Credits: Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. A huge thank you to The Chameleons for kind permission to use their photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
It is always a joy to go and see productions staged by The Chameleon Theatre Company. Their pantomimes are always full of laughs and that hasn’t changed for their latest one based on the classic tale of The Sleeping Beauty.
This version of the story was written by Norman Robbins who wrote many pantomimes based on traditional stories. To find out more do check out the website for him. The Chameleons have performed nine of his scripts, the most they’ve put on by any pantomime writer. This includes The Dragon of Wantley, which I reviewed here a couple of years ago.
As I mentioned in my post last week, Fairytales and Pantomime, the huge advantage of using fairytales for pantomime productions is that the audience know the stories. It makes it easier for them to join in. It simply wouldn’t be pantomime without keen audience participation.
Most theatre productions won’t welcome what would be considered heckling. In pantomime, all bets are off and the cast encourage the audience to join in which is always done with gusto.
The Sleeping Beauty
Azuriel (the good fairy godmother) – Lisa Dunbar
Carabosse (the anything but good fairy godmother but who had the most incredible make up) – Stuart Wineberg
King Cedric – Geoff Dodsworth
Queen Semolina – Marilyn Dunbar
Fusspot (a Grand Vizier type of character) – Nick Coleman
Tickles (Court Jester) – Terry James
Dame Ammonia Goodbody – Dave Wilkins (you should’ve seen the costumes and the wig – colourful doesn’t begin to cover it – see the photos).
Shout (one of the King’s heralds) – Gillian Wilkins
Bawl (the other King’s herald) – Yvonne Stroud
Princess Aurora – Lucie Stranack
Prince Valiant – Angharad Warren
Glen Partridge, Lesley James, Sian Hayden, Paige Harden, Lisa Barfoot, Abbie Jo Matcham
Paige Harden, Lily Meehan, Liara Wright, Francesca Dedman, Isla Kirby, Kara Chapman, George Chamberlain
Director: Sheila Hardiman
Production Assistant: Jan Bradshaw
What to Expect from a Chameleon Pantomime:-
Lots of laughs – delivered.
Colourful costumes and loads of make up especially for the Dame – delivered. Discovered later that Stuart Wineberg, who played the bad fairy godmother, Carabosse, needed fifteen minutes for the make up to be applied. Bear in mind this is for each show and the Chameleons were having matinee performances as well on the two Saturdays of the run for this show. That is a lot of make up and a lot of time!
Corny jokes with some wonderful puns – delivered.
A comic double act (in this case Shout and Bawl) – delivered.
A man hungry Dame (so brilliantly performed by Dave Wilkins) – delivered.
A fool figure (in this case Tickles) – delivered. (Usual for the Dame and the fool figure to end up having a happy ever after of their own).
Great acting – delivered.
Loads of chances to boo the villain(s) – delivered. (A sign of a great villain is how well they are booed at the end. No problems there for this show. The audience booed with considerable enthusiasm).
Loads of chances to cheer on the goodies – delivered.
Colourful sets – delivered. (Bear in mind The Chameleons produce their own sets so the work behind those must be considerable).
Fantastic singing – delivered. There were some interesting choices of songs too including the Minder Theme and Don’t Stop (by Fleetwood Mac). Not pieces you’d usually associate with a pantomime but they both worked brilliantly here.
Locally applicable jokes – delivered. In previous pantomimes, there has been mention of The Monks Brook and Toynbee School. For The Sleeping Beauty the local jokes were about the poshness of The Potters Heron. (Come on, it is posh!).
A well known story line acted out wonderfully and thoroughly enjoyed by the audience – delivered.
A keen audience who can’t wait to join in – delivered.
Daft names for many of the characters – definitely delivered. Queen Semolina? The good news is I’ve always hated semolina (I shudder at the memory of school dinners!) but the character of Queen Semolina was lovely.
Characters with names which suit their personality – Prince Valiant, Princess Aurora – delivered.
I had a fabulous time at the pantomime. Rhyme there intended. Apt too. Rhyme often crops up in pantomime scripts – usually when the fairy godmother casts a spell. It does seem to be obligatory to do these things in rhyme. And whenever the fairy folk came on in The Sleeping Beauty all of their speeches were in rhyme. Learning lines must be tricky at the best of times. To learn rhyming lines even more so. Well done, all. Great performances all round.
What was unexpectedly funny was the audience for the show Janet and I went to on the Thursday night were mainly middle age and upwards. There weren’t that many youngsters about.
I think this was because the Chameleons had already put on matinees with more of those to come (and I would expect the Saturday shows including the evening ones to bring in the younger families anyway). But this meant that some of the jokes in the scripts had to be adapted on the spot for the middle aged audience! This was done brilliantly and instead of jokes about school holidays, there were gags about bus passes etc.
Next Show – Waiting for Gateaux – 25th to 27th April 2024
The Chameleon Theatre Company will be back on stage in April with the wonderfully titled play, Waiting for Gateaux. (Sounds much more fun than Waiting for Godot to be honest, though possibly not great for the waistline!).
Dates will be 25th to 27th April 2024 with ticket prices being £11.00 for adults/seniors and £6.50 for children. Don’t forget you can keep up to date with information at The Chameleons’ website.
You can also find out more on their Facebook page
The pantomime as a tradition has been around for centuries (it is thought to go back to the 16th century) and you can see why. It’s fun. It’s staged at a time of year post Christmas but when it is still dark, cold, and grim out there (and that’s just relating to the weather, ignoring what’s going on in the news which is equally dark, cold and grim!). You can get in jokes at the powers that be. That’s always been popular in Britain.
There will be something seriously wrong with me if I ever stop loving booing the villain, cheering on the hero/heroine of shows like The Sleeping Beauty. Pantomime is a great form of escapist entertainment. Long may this fabulous tradition continue and I’m looking forward already to the next pantomime from The Chameleons.
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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