NORTH WEST ESSEX THEATRE GUILD

 

 

ANNUAL PLAY FESTIVAL

 

 

THE PIED PIPER OF HAMELIN

by GEOFFREY THORNBER ----- - -- - ----

LITTLE WALTHAM DRAMA GROUP JANUARY 1991 The Play

 

The Pied Piper presented a change from the usual very traditional pantomime stories. It had all the right pants ingredients, a dame, a principal boy, poor but honest, songs, dances, chases, audience participation and humour. However, like a lot of other Christmas plays, it was too long and there were scenes in which it was practically impossible to keep the audience's interest whatever the member's age. When you are mainly entertaining children and also using youngsters, it is better to leave them all wanting more rather than thankful that the play is over. I am not in the least suggesting that we were bored, but I felt that the writer was really milking the script in places.

 

The Presentation

 

The curtains for the stage and at the side are very impressive and make a good initial impact. It was a pity that the window curtains weren't thicker as it was quite light in the hall. but then I doubt if you often present a matinee. The stage itself always looked extremely colourful and both set painting and costumes were bright and dramatic. I always admire the way the group makes the most out of a very small stage, and ingenuity was very much to the fore here when there was such a large cast who needed to dance and move around. The use of different levels helps enormously and utilising entrances and exits actually in the hall gave variety and helped to keep the audience involved.

I particularly liked the kitchen backcloth a d thought that Koppleburg Hill was effective. The furniture in the Council Chamber was good and the props were more than life size, like the food raided by the rats.

The costume as a whole made an impact and this was good. The opening chorus was very bright and colourful and set the tone for the whole piece. If the chorus are well dressed, the whole show takes a step up. After all they are on stage a great deal of the time and need this sort of boost. I liked the touch of national costume that came over particularly with Gretchen's costume, and the ladies plaits were just spot on. The Mayor and the Councillor looked most effective until one caught sight of their feet and the modern shoes did spoil the medieval robes, The councillor's hat was a a delightfully comic touch, and the ratcatcher's outfit, although only on show for a short time had a wonderful sense of humour about it...dyna rat...! There was a similar touch with the various .prone etc that Stolmeyer came up with. Hettie Winkle had some outrageous outfits, which, although suitably loud, kept to the time span of the piece. The rat queen looked glittery but nasty, and the rats avoided the trap of ears and tails and looked effective in their headresses. The crown of the prince was particularly fetching. The fact that they weren't too little also helped and made them seem more 'nasty'.

 

The band were lively and gave us a very bouncy overture. They were also receptive to the voices on stage and didn't try to drown the quieter ones out. The taped music for the pipe was good but rather too strong and loud to be realistic and some of the sound reproduction was so loud as to be distorted. The speakers seemed very powerful and the hall isn't very big. Lighting was adequate and gave us a few eerie glows, perhaps a little more experiment here could have been made.

 

The Production

 

The production had plenty of attack and variety and the various sequences had been well worked out and manipulated. It did need more pace in places and some of the script could well have been cut. There was an awful lot of very inconsequential talk in both the Council chamber scenes and the Mayor and the Councillor seemed to be landed with a great deal or repetition that went on for too long. When the audience chats to each other, there is a problem.

I found the scenes with the chorus nipped along well. They sang loudly, reacted in a very lively fashion and moved with confidence and purpose. The absence of very young children helped here and what you lost on the 'AAH' factor you gained on pace and expertise. Some of the main characters needed to have more size and more idea of the style demanded by panto. It is essential to be always aware of the audience and to use it as much as it uses you. The audience is a very important character in panto and the cast have to project to the very back corner of the hall all the time, not gust voices but personalities as well.

The set pieces of pant o, the custard pie sequence, the children on stage, the rat behind you, all proved their worth, but were not wholly exploited by the cast. The look for the rat part was too drawn out and needed the cast to pick up on the reactions they received, and the pies were a little too deliberate. The children loved singing on the stage and the cast were super with them but they really did need the words of the song and rather more praise at the end. I should think you will have some volunteers for next year's panto from that little lot.

The dancing was good and effective and again used the small area imaginatively. The rat dance and the rat exit were particularly good. The inevitable sequences in front of the tabs while the set was changed worked well and weren't too long at all.

The singing had variety if not always an even standard and again I was impressed with the chorus-one of the best this season. The cast as u whole obviously had some very experienced members who could have done a little more to bolster up those who were clearly new and nervous.

 

 

The Cast

 

Stolmeyer

Terry had a marvellously lugubrious face which was just right for this character and he used it well throughout. I liked his accent and was

Councillor

Glyn really enjoyed himself in this part. He has a good line in the evil and salacious, a lively face, an energetic manner and a good fast end approach. Again the script was against him at times and the little boo card appearing out of the wings didn't help. We needed more direct guidance initially as to our reaction and then Glyn could have got our boos going himself. He moved well and did know how to use the audience.

 

Willie

Matthew also enjoyed himself. He has a lively manner and a confident approach for one so young. He was loud and clear and lolly, I thought that he coped very well indeed with the twisted leg and never once forgot about it. He has good natural timing and pace.

 

Second Councillor

Paul slept very well if rather loudly. When he was awake he was loud and clear and had a lively stab at the character.

Ratcatcher.

 

I gather Alan was a last minute replacement: He certainly knew how to steal the scene and upstage everybody else, something that you are allowed to do in Panto if nowhere else. He was lively and loud and made the very, very most of a very, very little part.

Pled Piper

Marea looked splendid and had just the right face for the part. She moved very well and was clear and positive and impressed herself on the audience. She commanded our attention. I thought she dealt very well with the pipe and linked her moves with the recorded sound very well. When it comes to it, the piper has quite a small role in the play but Karen made the most of it.

 

Queen Rat

Jackie gave a very nasty performance, while looking quite splendid. I thought she could have built more on the initial impact that she made and really had the ability to take an the audience and terrorize them to greater effect. She sang well and throughout had just the right tone of voice,

Prince Rat

Helen must have the longest legs 1 have seen for ages! She certainly moved and danced well and had very good hand movements. She was rather nice however, and really needed to be that much more frightening and evil, difficult if you look elegant, waiting far him to call Hettie' Vinkle!` He looked good but needed to be quicker on the uptake of cues, a little more responsive to the audience and perhaps more relaxed. Terry tended to make his set pieces look like set pieces. I thought he reacted well with Hettie and built up the right relationship with her.

 

Hettie

 

Brian looked incredible and knew how to make the most of every appearance on stage. He had a warm personality and was good with the audience. He had a loud clear voice, a good laugh and the ability to haze up the swings of emotion he has to show, just what was called for. His singing wasn't quite so hot, but he managed to get away with it. Brian's approach and attitude was just right for panto.

 

Hans

 

Niki looked young and sweet and innocent but wasn't upset enough about having no money, nor really convincing about her love for Gretchen, the principal boy does have to be a little more romantic. However, I think this was probably Niki's first attempt at such a role and she is to be congratulated for taking it on, principal boys are usually much older and more experienced. As it was, she made a good pair with Gretchen as both were very young. This relationship was believable, but not the one with the Councillor. Niki was at her most positive when dealing with the latter. She sang nicely and with some feeling. Niki needs to relax more on stage and move mare naturally . She had a nice smile and the knack of making us feel sorry for her,

 

Gretchen

 

Catherine was lively and sparky in this part and looked absolutely right throughout. I would have liked wore variety in mood from her, from romance to hate, and I think she could have been much nastier to the Councillor, he deserved it. Catherine sang nicely and especially in the higher register. Another young lady who needs more experience but has a lot of potential.

 

Town Clerk

 

Terry brought the right touch of bureaucracy to this part. He was positive, and certainly very bolshie. He was short, sharp and to the point and knew which side his bread was buttered.

 

Mayor

 

Jim looked very resplendent and played on the acquisitive side of his nature very well. He was suitably full of his own importance and exhuded big headedness. He needed rather more pace and life in some of the long exchanges with the councillor but sore of this was the script, Jim needed to be even larger n personality than he was and to work the audience more. He could have had us in a frenzy of anger if he had really tried.

 

Perry Winkle

Carole survived her name and was confident and positive in her role. she was an adequate foil for Hettie.

 

 

Helga and Gerda

June and Brenda both gave very lively and competent performances, graced by the best plaits in the business, They sang well and loudly and got the chorus going with plenty of vim and vigour. As I have said it does help to have experienced people in the chorus.

The rest of the cast, as I have already pointed out all acquitted themselves very well indeed and made a positive and large contribution to the show.

 

In Conclusion

A lively, colourful show that went down well with the audience, it was good to see something different.

 

 

Edwina A. McKay