REVIEW by Philip Evans
A NEW venue and a classic pantomime story never performed in Lyme Regis. What could possibly go wrong? Well, very little when I attended the very first showing of ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ by Lyme Regis Pantomime Society in their very first full production at the Woodmead Halls.
I suppose I have reviewed 20-30 pantomimes in Lyme Regis over the years and this one was up their among the best – perhaps THE best.
Producer/director Sarah Causley and her band of happy players and backstage helpers can feel well proud of their efforts in staging one of the most popular pantomimes in unfamiliar surroundings.
It had all the classic ingredients of a traditional pantomime – effective scenery, colourful costumes, outrageous wigs, slapstick, corny jokes, memorable tunes and plenty of energetic dance routines and cute ballet interludes.
It seemed to me that the more expansive stage facilities at the Woodmead Halls encouraged greater freedom for the dancers to make the most of some excellent choreography. Add to this a very strong cast of principals, some excellent and varied musical numbers and a responsive audience who hissed and booed in all the right places, you have all the key requirements of a rip-roaring success. And so it was.
A classic Dame performance
Key to any pantomime success is the role of the Dame – and this was entrusted to Dan Edwards who revelled in the role of Queen Dottie of Woollycoombe, resplendent in numerous outlandish costumes and a frightening orange wig, milking the comedy lines to the extreme and encouraging the audience to participate at every opportunity. This was a classic Dame performance around which much of the humour and fun on stage emanated.
Playing opposite the Dame was Dave Street in the role of King Nobby of Woollycoombe, upholding his family tradition of treading the panto boards, in what was a thoroughly confident performance. With Dan Edwards, he set the musical tone early on with a charming duet rendition of ‘Timeless To Me’ and featured strongly later in the evening during the dream scene when he emerged as Elvis Presley, much to the delight of the audience.
Also in that scene, and bringing the house down, was Amanda Rattenbury-Davies in the role of Jilly The Jester. She has inherited the Rattenbury trait for superb comic timing and had the audience in fits with her efforts to stay upright after skating onto stage. Amanda is a natural for such roles.
Principal boy and girl were played by Melissa Denslow (Prince Orlando) and Naomi Griffiths-Davies (Princess Aurora) who combined well in the duets, especially ‘Love Is An Open Door’.
Naomi, a relative newcomer to the Lyme stage, possesses a confident and relaxed stage presence and is likely to become a firm favourite with Lyme audiences in the future.
Melissa is part of another family with strong links to the pantomime society and has been appearing on the stage since the age of five. She grows in confidence with every part she plays and is destined to be one of Lyme’s most popular stage performers as her experience grows.
One person who will undoubtedly be proud of Melissa’s progress is grandmother Cathryn Brooks, herself an experienced stage performer in Lyme in many guises over the years. Cathryn used that experience to good effect in portraying the role of the evil fairy Carabosse, extracting a cacophony of boos and hisses from the audience.
Having played the part of the evil fairy in previous shows, I am tempted to say she’s in danger of becoming type-cast but as she lives opposite me I just don’t want to bump into her on a dark night in Anning Road!
Cathryn has a delightful voice and one of the high points of the show was her rendition of ‘Evil Like Me’, which also featured her over ambitious cat companion, Spindleshanks, splendidly portrayed by Tom Miller whose propensity for evilness probably outstripped that of the bad fairy.
As in all pantos, the good fairy wins the day and from Freya Hester as the Fairy Peaceful came a delightfully dippy performance from someone who clearly relishes being on stage, well supported by three apprentice fairies, complete with L plates, played by Cody Wootton, Grace Knowles and Sophie Carey.
A special mention also for Sofia Briggs-Harrison whose performance as Kitty The Palace Cat was charm personified.
Nurturing young performers
The word “family” is mentioned a number of times in this review and this, I believe, is one of the reasons why the pantomime society is able to nurture so many younger performers. It really is like one big family and that augers well for a society which has been entertaining audiences for many years in Lyme Regis and is likely to continue doing so for a long time to come.
The show ended with all the cast singing ‘Young At Heart’. Very appropriate.
A word of praise also for all those who work so hard behind the scenes. I thought ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ was staged in a very slick and professional manner. So well done to new stage manager Terry Cozens and his team.
Next year Lyme Regis Pantomime Society will be staging another old favourite – ‘Snow White’. Rehearsals will start in September and new members will be welcome.
Visit our Photo Gallery for more pictures from Lyme Regis Pantomime Society’s ‘The Sleeping Beauty’