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I take great comfort in the fact that some things never change: many, many years ago – you really don’t want to know just how long, but I was only 11 or 12 at the time – a friend’s sister was in a pantomime at her school, and we went along to see it. I can’t remember which panto it was; in fact I can remember only one thing about it, which was that they sang ‘If I Were Not In Pantomime’. I loved it then and tonight, when Buttons, Prince Charming and Dandini gave us their own manic take on the song, I sat there with a silly grin on my face, loving it all over again.
To be fair, I sat there with a silly grin on my face throughout the whole evening, and I do apologise to the elderly couple in front of me who seemed rather stunned when I joined in the audience responses with such gusto. Well, you have to, don’t you?
THIS is one of those plays that pops up with some regularity, so I am pretty familiar with it. However, listening to comments around me it was clear that quite a few of the audience had seen only the film, and that had drawn them to this production. I’m sure that they won’t have been disappointed, because although Liza Minnelli, Julie Walters, Shelley Winters et al were conspicuous by their absence, this really was a very good show indeed, thanks to the production team of Barbara Evans (director) and Rosie Thomas (choreographer).
Richard Harris’ Stepping Out is, of course, about a weekly tap class that takes place in a dingy London church hall. It always tickles me that at least some of the audience seems to think that the cast really do learn to tap dance as the play progresses, so there is always applause when they finally ‘get it right’. Since it is actually rather difficult to pretend to do something badly when you know the correct way all along, all credit must go to the performers for being so very convincing!
Jack & The Beanstalk
QUITE a few years ago now I came across a confident and supremely talented young boy, about 12 years old, who was performing magic tricks as part of a variety show in Ferndown. He has been crossing my radar ever since in a variety of guises, but mainly as a musical director or pantomime dame, and I am never less than hugely impressed by what he does. This year he has surpassed himself – oh, the energy of youth! – and despite having only just finished a run of Cinderella down in Weymouth, playing an Ugly Sister, just days later he’s wearing frocks again as Dame Trott in this extremely enjoyable pantomime, for which he is also musical director and author. Lee Redwood, is there no end to your talents?
Playing Dame Trott’s son Simple Simon is another young man who I have
been watching perform since he was tiny, and it has always been obvious
that he has a very special talent. Jack Haberfield commands the stage as
if born to it, and has a lovely way of interacting with the audience
that belies the fact that he is still a teenager.
Playing Dame Trott’s son Simple Simon is another young man who I have been watching perform since he was tiny, and it has always been obvious that he has a very special talent. Jack Haberfield commands the stage as if born to it, and has a lovely way of interacting with the audience that belies the fact that he is still a teenager.
WRITTEN by Michael Cooney and directed by the very experienced Ann Ramm, NFP’s production of this farcical comedy is a storming success.
The theme is very topical as the hapless hero Eric Swann gets a little carried away fraudulently claiming benefits for old absent lodgers, their made-up extended families and their false ailments.
John Tickner's portrayal of the seemingly misguided Eric is absolutely stunning, allowing every joke, innuendo and double entendre to land with precision and timing into the play and the audience were laughing aloud from start to finish. I was in awe of his comic timing and calm delivery throughout. Ably supported by the hilarious character Norman Bassett (David Woods), and the government inspector Mr Jenkins (Martin Pitman), their on-stage chemistry worked seamlessly.
QUINTESSENTIALLY English, it is no surprise that London Assurance was written by an Irishman. Dion Boucicault (pronounced BOO-see-coe) wrote the play in 1841, almost as a midway point between fellow countrymen Oliver Goldsmith’s ‘She Stoops to Conquer’ and paving the way for the works of Wilde, Shaw and Yeats. There is something about this ‘outsider looking in’ role that allows the objectifying of the comedy to work, sometimes. Granted, the play, as it stood, did require the ‘Mr. Sheen’ effect. As an example of Restoration theatre it was stacked well with stock characters and themes. Boucicault admitted, “I can spin out these rough- and-tumble dramas as a hen lays eggs. It’s a degrading occupation, but more money has been made out of guano than out of poetry.”
After a break from this genre for several years NFP are back in the land of boo and hiss and in their old home, the Memorial Hall, which felt considerably cosier than I remembered it. I’d remembered too that they used to do panto awfully well, so it was not really a surprise to find that they certainly haven’t lost their touch.
What do I want to see in a pantomime? Well, a chorus who look happy to be there, strong characterisations, bright costumes and sets, foot-tapping tunes (preferably sung by people who can actually sing), a few impressive special effects, not too much self-indulgence and, above all, the indefinable quality that marks the difference between okay and thoroughly enjoyable. If I was awarding marks I’d say that this production scored 99.9%, which is pretty good going by anyone’s standards.
On the surface, the plot of Charles Dyer’s play is itself simple: Percy, a 35-year old (or so he initially claims) football fan from Manchester, unmarried, resignedly chaste and lonely has been down in London, with his mates, for one of his team’s matches. Subsequently, one of them has bet him £50 that he will not spend a – consummated – night with a prostitute, Cyrenne.
When Dick Barton Special Agent was a regular radio programme I wasn’t even born, so I had no preconceived ideas of what to expect from this musical comedy of the same name. I can only imagine that the original took itself pretty seriously, as many radio shows did in the late 1940s, but I had a suspicion that this version might be somewhat tongue-in-cheek. In the event it proved to be a complete and utter spoof, and I loved every moment.
It's not very often that my wife and I get the treat of an evening out together - just the two of us. So last night, with the babysitter booked and the kids tucked up in bed we headed out for what we hoped would be an enjoyable evening. And, as it turned out, we were not disappointed.
We arrived at the very beautiful Ballard school to see New Forest Players’ Plaza Suite, written by Neil Simon. I will openly admit I had never heard of the play before tonight and so, apart from a little bit of research I had done beforehand, I went with an open mind as to what I was to expect. From the research I had done, I knew that Plaza Suite was a play composed of three “acts”, each involving different characters and stories, but all set in Suite 719 of the Plaza Hotel, New York.
This production is in safe hands – the hands of
master-playwright JB Priestley and of veteran director Sonia Collyer.
Sonia has been involved with the New Forest Players for more than half a
century and directed the same play almost 25 years ago. Her sure touch
is just one of the assets that contributes to this excellent production.