North Essex Theatre Guild

SHOWCASE FESTIVAL 2008 – 9

ADJUDICATION

Group

Little Waltham Drama Group

Venue

Little Waltham Memorial Hall

Date of Adj.

24th January 2009

Production

Sleeping Beauty

Director

Susan Butler

Adjudicated by

Jenny Burke

Accompanied by

Liz Mullen

 

 

Introduction

Set in a charming village hall and one was immediately struck by the small size of the hall; nevertheless inside there was a real community atmosphere.  With a full house, a great family atmosphere and plenty of young audience all excitedly chatting.

Front of House / Publicity

We were warmly greeted by the front of house team, including coffee brought to us during the interval.  Our seats had been assigned, we had a good view of the whole stage, and we thank you for that.  The programme was printed on good quality paper and packed full of interesting information, with a friendly word from both chairman and director.  How good to have a picture of each member of the cast, this was great in helping me try to identify the characters is this group.

 

Set Construction / Set Painting

The sets had obviously been designed to achieve the maximum space available.  With a section of stage in front of the main curtain, at a lower level, allowing for interesting groupings to be achieved.  The main stage, slightly higher, was dressed with an impressive number of painted backdrops denoting the changing scenes. These were very well and imaginatively painted, adding colour and a great sense of perspective to each set, especially the grand staircase in the palace. The side and fly curtains also helped to create perspective.  In the palace scene where the princess lay asleep the addition of overgrown foliage would have been a good effect and it was a pity this had not been achieved.

 

Props

There were very few personal props required for this production.  The stage props were well chosen, especially the full size spinning wheel, integral to the story.  The bed for Princess Rose covered with white cloth and a variety of foliage was very effective.

Lighting Design and Operation

There was good general cover throughout.  Spots were used during the show, and these were well positioned and constantly moved with the actors.  A number of specials, the glitter ball created just the right effect whenever the three fairies came on stage, cleverly changing to red when Carrabosse entered.  The timing for all of these was confidently crisp in execution.  There was also a very charming and evocative lighting and smoke effect for both the spinning wheel scene and when Princess Rose lay asleep.  The lights dimmed whenever Carrabosse was on stage, this gave the right amount of menace and mystery to her character and enhanced the red aspect, however, this also meant that it became difficult to focus on the stage.  It would have been less tiring on the eye if the lights had been raised once her scenes had got underway.  Also, it might have been nice to have some ‘creepy’ lighting effect for the ghost scene.

Sound operation and design

Live accompaniment can greatly enhance this type of production; this three-piece band accompaniment was very impressive.  All three musicians produced good quality music at just the right level, not to overwhelm the performers.  We both particularly liked the various percussion sounds used to highlight individual jokes.  These were really well timed and added greatly to the comedy within the production.  I particularly liked the different way the king and queen were introduced for each of their scenes.  Well done.

Costumes and Make-up

Obviously a lot of thought had gone into the overall look and style of this show.  Colours were chosen to blend together, whilst at the same time the style of each costume clearly showed the actor’s character, to the extent that Prince Valliant’s costume suggested the required 100 years into the future.  The change of costume for the chorus to start the second half created the right look, they were colourful and equally well coordinated.  The Dame’s costumes were just right; I particularly liked the ‘cake’ dress.  Wigs and make-up were well chosen and successfully managed to enhance a required look.  I really believed my favourite fairy stories had stepped out of the pages of my own storybook and on to the stage; it captured the look of so many traditional pictures.  I even thought I saw the caricatures from a set of playing cards depicted in the King and Queen.  Well done to all. 

 

We were not sure about the modern costumes including the colourful leotard worn by Rupert Roger, it did strike a discordant note with the other costumes, but that may have been the director’s decision.  They created colour and interest, but this could have been achieved without breaking away from the style of the show throughout. 

 

 

Choreography

The ball scene was nicely handled and the chorus opening of the second half with the villagers in their pretty costumes was simple yet effective.  Choreography for the songs performed by other members of the cast was put together well.  Their moves were nicely in time with the rhythm and relevant to the theme of each song.  The cast had been well rehearsed making the execution of each number polished and fluid.

 

CAST 

Chorus

A really lively and engaging chorus group, they all moved on and off stage efficiently and created interesting groups in stage.  The chorus sung their first song, ‘The Night They Invented Champagne’, with gusto and collectively created a strong and pleasing sound.  Most members of the chorus smiled, creating a good feeling of fun and pleasure, but there still remained a few who could have given their smiles even more emphasis to really lift the look.

 

 

Fairy Good  -  Marea Irving

Fairy Sweet -  Hannah Walker

Fariy Nuff    -  Julie Cole

What a lovely opening to the show these three actresses presented.  I have to appraise them as a group, as they worked so well together, yet even so managed to portray their individuality very well.  They presented their dialogue with confidence and clarity, not shy to come forward.  Good facial expressions added to our understanding of their dialogue, especially Fairy Nuff, who brought out the comedy in her part very well.  Nice ensemble playing.

 

Shout   -   Ken Little

Bawl     -   Glyn Jones

This was a fine double act, with both actors working well off one another.  Ken was perhaps a little quieter; he attacked his part and presented some good facial expressions, but did not always achieve that extra punch needed to fully underpin the comedy.  However, that said this was only a minor point as both actors worked well together and moved around the stage with energy.  They interacted with the audience, encouraging us to join in the fun, and there was a comfortable and confident air to their performances.

 

King Cedric        -  Brian Corrie

Queen Beatrice  -  Gill Haysham

Once again we were presented with a double act, the King and Queen vying off one another every time they came on stage. 

 

The King presented a doting father, not quite with it all the time.  Brian looked every inch the archetypal pantomime King; he had a really engaging smile and the perfect look in his wig and beard.   Brian’s portrayal was softer making the casting for this part spot on as he created a good foil for Queen Beatrice.

 

Queen Beatrice had amazing facial expressions and a laugh that stayed in my memory long after I went home.  I was impressed with her total concentration and commitment whenever she was on stage; she remained in character no matter what happened around her. Her expressions and gestures were well timed, never missing an opportunity to add that little something to enhance her dialogue. She created a good rapport with the audience with a few adlibs that demonstrated her comfort on stage.

 

Rupert Roger  -  Andy Walker

Andy played up to the camp side of this portrayal, which suited his style.  He had a rather soft voice, which at times made it hard for us to hear him.  He seemed a little nervous to start, but got into his stride as the play progressed.  It was right that he quitted himself with the mic. for his song, which he performed well, suddenly bursting on to the stage, almost another character altogether, he certainly let rip with the rock theme! 

 

Dame Goodbody – Mike Lee

From the moment Mike entered he stamped his own style on this part.  He spoke out clearly, and pointed up the humour very well.  His make-up and hair were just right for the part, and his tall stature only served to add value to the humour in this portrayal.  This was a well rehearsed and timed performance, which created the very essence of a pantomime dame.  His interactions with Percy were amongst the funniest moments in the show.  Well done.

 

Percy  -  Richard Butler

Taking his inspiration from the character of Jim Trott, in the TV series ‘The Vicar of Dibley’, Richard stumbled and cajoled his way through this play with an excellent measure of timing.  He constantly reminded us that we were part of the proceedings, and never missed an opportunity to force us into submission and engage with him and all his jokes.  His interaction with the other members of the cast was inspired, especially with the Dame, and the difference in their heights only served to make this funnier.  They had been well drilled and rehearsed in their set pieces, and these worked very well.  This was an imaginative and creative performance, full of comedy lines as well as beautifully choreographed comic moves.

 

Carabosse  -  Jenny Broadway

Jenny carried herself with such style and looked lovely.  She has a beautiful voice, and enunciated her words well; deliciously curling her tongue round the dialogue and with her exaggerated movement she created the very essence of the wicked fairy.  Well done

 

Princess Rose  -  Zoe Pearson

Zoe brought not only the look of a princess she also acted with style.  She delivered her lines with confidence and her expressions were a delight.  She created the perfect princess, especially the lovely blond curly hair, and she carried us away into fairyland.

 

Prince Valiant  -  Maddie Shaw

Maddie played the pantomime card to the full (I had begun to wonder when the ‘thigh slap’ would appear).  She presented a strident principle boy character, but at times she needs to deliver her dialogue with a little more energy and expression, some of her lines lost their impact through a slight hesitant manner in delivery.  Nevertheless, she has a good stage presence and achieved a convincing princely manner.

 

 

Production

Not only the stage, the whole auditorium was used to good effect.  Running in and out of the various doors around the room worked well and constantly brought the show out to us.  The actors encourage us to respond, just stopping short of being annoying.  But this worked because the whole cast appeared to be in control and at ease with us.  In addition there was a great feeling of community and team spirit amongst the cast.  The principle characters were well defined and comically over the top in there presentation.  I have to congratulate the director on ensuring that even the less experienced members of the cast had courage to step up to the mark and deliver with certainty and confidence.

 

The pace and energy was good throughout.  The set pieces of comedy had been well rehearsed.  The blocking was cleverly worked out, and I enjoyed the way the whole cast knew where to stand on stage, allowing us clear view of all and achieving good lines.  With just the one exception, for the walk-down at the end the fairies had been placed front centre stage.  This may have created a balanced line, but unfortunately it completely obscured our view of anyone else coming through to take their bow, in particular we never saw the lovely costume change for the Prince and Princess.  The fairies could have been placed to one side to give us a clear view of centre stage.

 

The set served the actors well, allowing for maximum room on the small stage.  We had a good view from where we were sitting of both the spinning wheel and the make shift bed, which had been set on a rostra.  But I did wonder if all the audience had the same clear view.  I felt that the bed could have been a little higher to allow all to see her asleep as this scene was very pretty and the lighting particularly effective.  We both felt it was a pity that more had not been done to create the overgrown foliage in the palace especially as the hand with the sword had been introduced so well, but once it had been retrieved there was no evidence of its use to free the princess. 

 

The songs had been well chosen to enhance the story and simple enough in execution not to overwhelm any of the cast.  The musicians interacted well with the storyline, pointing up the humour at every opportunity.

 

The only area that stepped out from the otherwise traditional style, for a few of the numbers, was the introduction of modern costumes.  We had been given such clear guidelines on all we had been watching, been well seduced into a very traditional pantomime style and with so much attention to detail and period in the rest of the show, my colleague and I felt this modern element did not sit comfortably. If this production had not been so tight and disciplined in all other respects, introducing modern costumes would have blended without a sense of imbalance and contradiction. 

 

The comedy element of this production came across consistently.  Everyone seemed to have been well drilled in how to put across both funny dialogue and comical movement.  Attention to body language was impressive, this is an area that can so often is missed.  The very clever devise of Percy getting struck behind or in front of the curtains set us up beautifully for ghost joke.  The ghost bumping into the wall was hilarious, very unexpected, and a comedy moment I will remember for a long time.

 

However, at times I felt the comedy was presented at the expense of the romance of the show, which was the fairy story of the Prince and Princess.  We only saw them for a short time together and this had not been so well developed between the two actors as some of the comedy duos. I cannot recall that they had been given a special piece of music to enhance the romance and that would have been nice too.  Not seeing the prince hack his way through climbing creepers to reach his princess was a pity, and there was no build up to the all-important kiss to wake her.  Even as the Prince went to his fair Princess, Percy was up-staging this, wrestling with the implied weight of the sword (this was a creative piece of humour, well worth exploiting, but not I believe at the expense of the one moment of romance in the story). 

 

Conclusion

 

This was a colourful and extremely funny traditional pantomime.  From the start of this production there was an air of confidence and surety from the cast and musicians about presenting a pantomime.  The whole show was constantly and effectively geared to include us all in the fun. 

 

This production did not necessarily over-run, however the first half was a little long.  Personally, I would have preferred to not have the modern songs and costume changes and concentrate on building more into the romance of the story.

 

My colleague, who already knew the script, pointed out a number of changes, perhaps to allow for some individual creative elements.  There was certainly something for everyone to enjoy, from the older members of the audience to the young ones.  I laughed a lot, as did all of us.  I was impressed with this group for their well-rehearsed and well-timed physical comedy, and in particular their ability to include the whole audience in the fun of the show.  Everyone looked as though they were enjoying every moment (with zany characters and physical humour I can only imagine what fun rehearsals must have been!), and this created the right atmosphere for us all to let go and enjoy watching them perform.

 

There was a real community spirit emanating from all concerned.

 

Jenny Burke