LITTLE WALTHAM DRAMA GROUP - THURSDAY 19 JANUARY 2006
PANTOMIME – ROBINSON CRUSOE

FRONT OF HOUSE

As always, a very friendly welcome. How Glyn Jones found time to chat to me and bring my coffee to me at half time I don’t know. Thanks very much.

Nice to see a large and packed programme. I did not get around to doing the Word Search during the evening, but I will do it!

I am not sure that I understand why what could have been a very interesting and comprehensive History Of Pantomime was modified to try and provide some humour. The original unadorned story (as downloaded from the internet, which I am sure is where this came from) is much more interesting; how many of your junior (and, indeed, senior) audience failed to see the changes and have gone away with completely the wrong facts? A shame.

SET, PROPS, STAGE MANAGEMENT & MAKE UP

Set

The permanent palm trees either side of the proscenium gave a sense of a desert island. You sensibly limited yourselves to a few simple but well painted backcloths, with alternate scenes being played in front of the main curtains. This worked very well.

Props

Props were minimal, but made and used effectively

Stage Management

As nothing appeared to go wrong, and scene changes were silent, I can only conclude that the stage management was very good. A special mention for the effects with the catapult (Scene 1).

Make Up

I don’t usually comment on Make Up, since most groups these days seem to do without! However, congratulations to the make up crew – a fine effort on a very large scale and good attention to detail.

LIGHTING AND SOUND

Lighting With limited resources, interest was maintained by contrasting brightly lit general scenes with good use of follow spots. Whilst one could always wish for more sophisticated lighting, your limited set-up did not detract from the performance at all. I liked the “undersea” setting very much. Particular congratulations to the follow spot operators. Not often used in amateur theatre, it is all too easy to get it wrong (operators falling asleep between cues, etc.!), but I did not detect any problems. All cues appeared to be on time.

Sound I did not count the sound effects, but there were quite a lot. Again, congratulations; all cues seemed to be on time, volume was good and the effects were well thought out and effective.

COSTUME

Excellent effort to produce such a large number of such quality, with great attention to detail. It was obvious that a lot of work had gone into producing them. There were several quick changes and these appeared to go well.

MUSICAL DIRECTION AND ORCHESTRA

I could not see a credit for Musical Direction in the programme – perhaps you are lucky and your members just sing together naturally! However, someone got the chorus to sing very well – a great improvement over last summer’s Evening Of Swing. The solos/duets & trios, etc. were also in general very well done.

The two-piece band did well, with the drummer especially getting involved in the action. I hope the keyboard player finished his book of Sudoko puzzles by the end of the run – it was a little off-putting to see him deep in a book instead of taking an interest in the production. This may be why he missed one cue on Thursday! The musical highlight was The Pirate King.

DIRECTION AND CHOREOGRAPHY

Direction I will make detailed comments under individual scenes later. In general, you achieved a well paced production, integrating a large cast and crew and, above all, sent your audience away happy. What more could you want! I also liked the way the songs fell into place naturally, rather than being forced into position.

Choreography You very wisely kept the choreography to a minimum on a very small stage. What there was, was generally quite pleasing if a bit repetitive.

CAST

A brief impression here – more detailed comments under Scenes following.

Generally, I was pleased to note that I did not have to criticise anyone for low volume or poor diction. Well done!

Captain Perkins A nice performance, which could have been a little more relaxed.

Polly Perkins Very good confident performance, but not overpowering.

Kenny Crusoe Ken Little has a natural comic talent and an ability to win over an audience. He also has a very quick wit when it comes to ad-libs. An excellent performance

Blackpatch Without doubt the star of the show. A magnificent stage presence and the ability to manipulate the audience made this a performance to remember.

Bill Very brave to take over this part at such short notice, and the lack of rehearsal unfortunately showed.

Ben I would have liked to see Brian do this part with a fully rehearsed Bill. I am sure that the duo would have been terrific. A very nice sensitive performance with great potential.

Robinson Crusoe Isn’t odd how Principal Boys very rarely have principal parts? A nice confident rendition, but possibly needed more lines to get into the part and give a more positive performance. What a shame we only saw him (her) in tights for a few moments at the end!

Camilla Crusoe Pantomime Dames are probably one of the most difficult parts for professionals and amateurs alike. They need an actor with very special qualities. I think that you just about got away with it on this occasion, although you did not entirely captivate the audience as you should.

Old Jim A very small part, but nice attention to character detail.

Oylslick A very nice performance of a small part. Suitably oily!

Detergenta Don’t we get some obscure parts in panto? Difficult to make much of this part, but well played.

Queen A lovely boisterous part, well played.

Man Friday Another small part, but necessary to the plot. Quite well played, but I thought Adam could have made a lot more of it. He was too conscious of the audience, self-consciously smiling to begin with when he should have been frightened and puzzled.

Jack Boot An excellent performance. Just the right amount of bravado without over-acting!

Chorus Very well schooled. Good acting when in the background. A very good support in all roles, to the main characters.

FIRST HALF

Overture and Introduction. Short and sweet!

You Are My Sunshine A nice opening number to get us in the mood. Plenty of smiles, I was pleased to see!

London Docks A very nice backdrop. Excellent business with parrot. A lot of plot dealt with without boring the audience. Blackpatch immediate rapport with audience.

Bill & Ben entry in “Blue Peter” excellent and a very slick section with Blackpatch.

Excellent business with catapult. Camilla’s first entrance – struggled to win audience over. Dishing out the sweets took far too long and broke up the flow of the show.

Great local and topical references (throughout the show). “Sailing” nicely sung, but rather pointless and distracting choreography.

Poop Deck (and all other scenes in front of the curtains – very difficult to do scenes with many entrances and exits in front of curtains without getting tangled up in them. You managed very well and the curtains did not detract from the action).

Good acting despite lack of scenery. The IOU and money scene dragged a bit – possibly due to words. Effective use of strobe.

Main Deck Another good backdrop. Again, Camilla had to start afresh with the audience on each entrance. There was no carry-over of laughter and good will between appearances (as opposed to Blackpatch, who only had to appear to produce a reaction)

The “slops” and the “mops” business could have been a riot but just failed to take off – probably due to Bill being under rehearsed (understandable) The slops pail should have had something in it to make the sketch funnier. The whole scene needed to be sharper.

Poop Deck Nice harmony in Top Of The World. Drunken Sailor very good. Excellent use of follow spots.

Main Deck Altogether a very good scene. The Pirate King was brilliant and the chorus support was very good. Lots of enthusiasm. Excellent fight and good business with magic book. Blackpatch’s very suggestive words and movements went down very well. (Whatever sort of audience have you got!)

Oylslick’s Grotto A good scene made believable in front of the curtains by excellent lighting and acting. I liked Robinson Crusoe’s and Polly’s costume adaptations when “oiled”. Very effective.

Under The Sea A really lovely setting using very simple cloths and good lighting. What a pity the scene was so short. Hardly time to appreciate the setting!

SECOND HALF

Tobago Very good backcloth. Nice opening with Satisfaction. Good miming to record. Excellent costumes and props. I liked the monkey heads and the “totem pole” on the forestage. Nice ragged costume for Robinson Crusoe. Rain In Spain lacked confidence and fluidity.

Island Village Nice little scene. No problems.

Stockade Nice adaptation of Island scene by use of woven fencing, with a gate that actually worked!

Forest Very good scene. I liked the gorilla noises, and the gorilla sequence was excellent. Kenny Crusoe’s ad-lib when someone accidentally knocked the parrot was priceless.

Temple Another nice backcloth, although not as good as the previous ones. Perhaps the designer/painters had got a bit tired by the time they got to this one! I liked the blowpipe business and the sword fight. Always difficult to choreograph and to get the final lunge to look good, but this was perfect. Camilla’s words went astray in this scene.

On The Way home For some reason, Bill & Ben came alive in this scene. The Audience participation song went very well. I think my side won! Well done.

London Docks (Finale) A very nice ending to the show. I liked the precision of the verse spoken by individuals (very difficult to get right). A well rehearsed and disciplined finale, with everyone bowing at the same time – not a very common occurrence!

TO SUM UP

Although I have picked up a few criticisms, all in all I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening.Despite trying to make notes, I enjoyed the show and, most importantly, laughed a lot. I am always amazed at how much you manage to do in so little space and with such limited facilities.It does help, of course, to have a devoted small village audience, hence the excellent audience participation; so good, in fact, that there was participation even when not required!A Pleasure! Many congratulations.

Ian Crisp

January 2006