NORTH WEST ESSEX THEATRE GUILD

DICK WHITTINGTON

 

Front of House

As always, a warm welcome from Eileen Metson as we arrived. We were rather grateful as we were trying to put to the backs of our minds a weird sound from the car engine as we parked. However, whatever caused it seems to have vanished.

 

The little hall was quickly filled with an obviously eager audience – and why wouldn’t they be? This Drama Group does give a very high standard of entertainment.

 

Set

I liked the rats portrayed on the Proscenium arch with their red eyes. Very well painted, as was all the scenery.

Props

Not a great deal of these, but I did see a rather splendid blackbird in a pie. Well done. I also admired King Rat’s rat-head cane with lit-up red eyes.

Stage Management

Good smooth teamwork from Ian Thorpe and his backstage crew as always.

Lighting and Sound

Some really splendid work from this team, throughout. Especially when working in conjunction with the Sound Crew. I also sympathize with the problems of having to move equipment to one side to facilitate other users of this little hall. Both lighting and sound were right on cue with excellent effects.

Costumes

Extremely good. Obviously a lot of attention to detail regarding period costumes. Congratulations to June Franzen and also a busy Marea Iriving also working on Make-up and wigs. Well done.

Choreography

Very good throughout. It’s quite a challenge on your little stage but always extremely disciplined.

Direction

Under Susan Butler’s direction, the cast continued their high standard of controlled movement while retaining the fun of performing in panto. Congratulations.

Musical Direction

Excellent singing and clear diction from all characters and chorus. Richard Stephens, Colin Turner and Kevin Jones played their instruments with obvious enjoyment. All 18 songs in this production were very well put over, sung with gusto when required and equally sweetly as in ‘Oranges and Lemons’.

Cast

Not such a huge cast as last year’s ‘Queen of Hearts’ but this company is huge in talent!

Fairy Bow-bells

Well done to Karen Wray for taking over this part at short notice. It was played (excusably) rather softly, but nonetheless very charmingly as befits an important fairy.

King Rat

WOW! I played opposite a very splendid King Rat when I was ‘Tommy’ for Brentwood and have over the years seen many ‘baddies’ in panto, but Mike Lee really hit the heights in this part. Standing (apparently) at least 7ft 6 inches (!!) with truly excellent make-up and a wonderful swishing tail coming from his splendid costume, complete with red glasses and black fingernails, he was every inch his evil character. With a very strong voice, he didn’t let up his dramatization from entrance to exit every time. What a talented fellow! Excellent!

 

 

Rats

Marea and Maddie deserve a very special mention for their very good supporting roles to

King Rat. Always reacting and remaining in character. Extremely impressive dance routines almost like synchronized swimming. Brilliant!

Alderman Fitzwarren

A rather different character from last year’s Demon Gumboil, requiring a more fatherly attitude, which Glyn played very well.

Idle Jack

So where has this bundle of talent been hiding? Richard was well able to ‘work’ the audience and was extremely funny with his ‘ad-libs’. When I read the script, I truly thought I’d be fed up with the times Jack had to say ‘Ooh, I’m fed up’ but I laughed at his antics as much as the rest of the audience every time. Excellent!

Sarah

When I saw Gill’s name, I knew we were in for a treat. She was so funny as ‘Schniff’ last year. The part of Sarah really rates as a Panto Dame, and is usually played by an over made-up man in an outsize costume, so it was rather delightful to see a pretty lady as an equally funny foil to Idle Jack. The ‘A You’re Adorable’ song was excellent. Very well done.

Dick Whittington

Definitely a step-up from Bosun Smee, Sue played the lead role of Dick with confidence and a good clear voice. Very good characterization. All Dick’s songs were very well put over.

Tommy

Having played this part myself, it is difficult to comment. The audience liked the portrayal, particularly the children in the front row, as Tommy has a lovable personality. Certainly this did come over. However, my disappointment was two-fold. Firstly, the costume. What breed was Tommy meant to be? It’s shiny material and odd patches reminded me of the Hairless Mexican species and the strange wig was really more lion’s mane than domestic pet. I really felt that Sable was rather too tall for the part and made little effort to show any tendency to appear smaller and more feline, as in ‘licking’ paws to wash over ears and whiskers etc. as cats do. It isn’t easy to spend time crouched down as I know, but it would have helped the overall depiction.

Captain Port

A sturdy performance and well played. His costume was more Admiral than Captain however!

First Mate Starboard

The other half of the amusing sea-going pair. Well played.

Alice

A pretty Alderman’s daughter for Dick to lose his heart to and according to the fascinating write-up, like Dick, she was a genuine person in 1419!

Victoria and Dolly

A little difficult to know the reason for these characters, but then in pantoland anything goes!!

Final Note

Several pieces of stage business were extremely slick and very funny as in the ‘I’m a Woman’ (plus two unbelievable males!), the water throwing, the ‘flags’ coming out of Dick’s spotted bundle and of course, the fight scene.

I enjoyed the interesting pages of write-ups in your programme which is obviously well researched. Looking at the dates compiled from information about the real Dick Whittington, it would appear that if he married Alice in 1419 and he died (after her) in 1423, their marriage must have been a very short one. How sad.

Thank you again for all the hard work that goes into making the excellence of your productions. Congratulations to everyone involved.

 

Janet M Cass

Adjudicator