NORTH ESSEX THEATRE GUILD

2011-2012

 

GROUP – LITTLE WALTHAM DRAMA GROUP

 

TITLE –ALI BABA and the FORTY THIEVES

 

ADJUDICATION – 17TH JANUARY 2012

 

INTRODUCTION – With cheerful welcome and a bright programme thrust into our hands Andrew and I were shown to our seats which were nicely placed by the aisle used from time to time by the actors, and gave a good view of the musicians.  Having established our interval requirements (which were much appreciated) there was time to peruse the programme which was clearly set out with all the necessary information and which included both the  song to be sung by the audience and puzzles at the end. The atmosphere in the auditorium was cheerful and expectant as the musicians prepared for the opening using the familiar tunes of Abba with words appropriate to the storyline of Ali Baba.

 

THE SET – Noting that this production had a variety of scenes and that the stage was reasonably limited in size the changes from streets to caves and house were well achieved.  The changes were made efficiently and were well covered by the action of the performers, sometimes in front of the tabs and sometimes movement among the audience from the side doors into the auditorium.  The opening scene was colourful and formed a good backdrop to the first number. There was good contrast both in colour and perspective between the street scenes and those which took place both in and around the palace.   The set for Act 1 Scene 3 certainly created a feeling of foreboding and the cave was imaginatively conceived and worked well.  The kitchen was a good example of giving an impression of space. The side flats helped to give a sense of both greater space and the atmosphere. There appeared from the programme that there was a large team designing and constructing whether backdrops or solid scenery and all should be congratulated on creating such variety.

 

PROPS - Those on set, such as the treasure, were eye catching and all clearly served their purpose. With a large cast and limited space they were sensibly kept to a minimum and furnishings also.  The personal props were obviously well devised and used in a controlled manner.  Whether deemed a prop or no seeing Cassim’s torso cut into four pieces was a feat which certainly had reaction from the audience.  

 

LIGHTING & SOUND -  Both departments enhanced this production.  There was plenty of variety in the lighting to establish both the atmosphere and the changes of scene smoothly.  Characters were generally picked up well when needing to be in a spotlight and the contrast of light from street to forest, cave and palace were clearly defined.  The sound of ghosts and echoing was appropriately scary and the “noise” of the camel backing up, like a lorry, very amusing.  This team achieved much to enhance both the atmosphere and storyline. Well done.

 

MUSIC – With the well known Abba tunes so very familiar to the audience it made it easy to concentrate on the words which Simon Rayner Davis wrote to fit both the occasion of each song and the music. They were sung with enthusiasm and complimented the dialogue slotting in easily to the action of the pantomime. The audience obviously enjoyed their participation, toward the end, singing enthusiastically.  The opening number did start rather nervously I felt but the cast soon got into its stride.  The musicians really set the feet tapping.  Their playing was lively and tuneful and each one participated throughout with the action. Congratulations to all involved.

 

COSTUME&MAKEUP – Viv Abrey and Jenny Money worked well to achieve such a motley set of garments for everyone.  The amazing shapes and colours along with the nicely overstated makeup where necessary and of course the wigs created a memorable visual effect throughout the pantomime.  Costume reflected the characters as in that of the Four Tie Thieves with their individual ties and outfits that reflected the individuality of each..  Rum Baba had a number of “outrageous” outfits which must have kept the actor busy both on and off stage.  Equally, both horse and camel looked believable pantomime animals.  The finale showed a cast looking lavishly dressed, as was the stage.  Those involved with the makeup and dressing must have been well disciplined to ensure the cast looked comfortable and believable in the numerous costumes.

 

PERFORMANCES –

                                     Rough Ralph –To get a play off to a good start the dialogue must be delivered clearly and projected well.  Linda Burrow achieved this and commanded our attention.  She had pace and picked up cues promptly delivering the humour of “shooting the silk” amusingly.

                                     Ugli Baba -  Chrissy Gould responded well in keeping a good pace and both she and Linda  pointed the comedy clearly without slowing pace.  Chrissy maintained a self opinionated character, who was controlling, especially of her husband.  She had a strong voice and showed annoyance with others who did not appreciate her importance. 

                                     Semolina,Tapioca –As ladies of Old Baghdad, Val Hoines and Marea Irving showed they had some “class” as they tried to go about their business of dealing with the traders. They made an amusing duo in their reactions to the Four tie thieves.

                                     Sago/Ghost – As the ghost Nicola Ayris looked and moved in a sufficiently threatening manner to get reaction from members of the audience as well as apparently frightening Ali and Rum. Movement was deliberate.

                                      Duane Pipe – With his speech clearly indicating problems over the letter “r” Gordon McSween  defined his character as a seller of pets.  He showed a character who always appeared to enjoy his own jokes and was quick to pick up cues which helped to convey the canniness of his bargaining. He pointed his puns well.

                                     Mustapha Tinkle – This character had dialogue which because it was full of puns needed to flow in quick fire fashion.  Whilst much of the early scenes in which Richard Butler appeared followed this pattern this was not so in the second act and this slowed the pace at the beginning of the second half.  Richard obviously enjoyed himself in this part.

                                     Jack the Kipper, Dickie Beau}- These four parts were played

                                     Polly Esther, Reggie Mental }  with each personality clearly defined.  Heather, Brian Sue and Julie worked together well and responded with pace and a good sense of comedy timing.  Brian Corrie was particularly amusing in sustaining his character with good movement and voice.  These were energetic performances.

                                 Maid Earlier – With a strong voice and commanding manner Susan Butler moved with ease and authority over her Four Ties. The scene when she sang with the Four Ties was lively and fun.  Facial expression was good.

                                  Rum Baba – As the wife of Ali and the “dame” of the piece Mike Lee managed his changes of amazing costume very well.  He wore his dresses  with great aplomb and this enhanced his portrayal of the part. Delivery of lines was sharp and emphasis of puns never so pointed that they stopped the flow of the dialogue. Rapport with the audience was good and kept under control.  A most enjoyable performance.

                                    Tetley& Typhoo – Jenni Money and Viv Abrey made a good duo. They were fast on cues and made the most of their puns.  Facial expression was very telling especially the use of eyes.  Not only could they be distinguished from each other by costume but also Viv made Typhoo slower and less able to grasp situations whilst Jenni showed more of the straight personality of Tetley.  A good combination.

                                     Ali Baba – Played by Glyn Jones who created a believable pantomime character.   He had empathy with the audience and was confident in responding to them without slowing the pace.  Glyn made the part a good contrast to the bossiness of  Rum Baba, he was kindly though enjoyed making a joke about her. Diction was clear and he moved easily about the stage.

                                     Abba Baba – With an expressive face and a friendly smile Alex Lee endeared herself to the audience.  As one half of the romantic plot Alex played the young admirer convincingly.  Responses to the parents were as would be expected from a young person trying to demonstrate his maturity and made a good contrast to the dialogue with Morgiana. A well sustained performance.

                                    Morgiana – Hannah Walker got off to a rather subdued start as the orphan girl taken in by the Baba family but in Act 2  Hannah’s portrayal became livelier and her movement was good.  In the second act, as the “heroine who saved the day” Hannah displayed a strength in her voice and kept a good pace so deservedly winning her young man.  Well done.

                                    Cassim Baba – As the somewhat henpecked husband of Ugli Steve Jones managed a nicely pathetic portrayal of Ali’s brother.  He reacted well to Ugli’s bossy attitude both in his demeanour and facial expression. Steve managed the play on words of his dialogue smoothly.

                                    Camel – Vicky Weavers and Sara Weavers made an excellent camel between them.  The movement which they produced, working together as a team, was good and they managed to convey an interesting character.  Timing of the antics had to be accurate and not slow the action; both Vicky and Sara achieved this well.  They provided much fun for the audience.

 

DIRECTION -  I admit to being quite concerned at the continuous use of  the pun when reading this script prior to watching the performance but the direction ensured that dialogue flowed easily and  with good projection.  Cast delivered the lines with pace and ease which kept the audience smiling.  Act 1, particularly, had real attack and energy which allowed the audience to get into the pattern of dialogue and action easily.  Any direct involvement with the audience was well handled except for a time in Act 2 when the banter slowed the progress of the pantomime. Visually the entire display of set and costume was colourful and varied for which those concerned should be congratulated.  Movement was well controlled on what is a comparatively small acting area.  The use of the extended stage and central aisles allowed for greater scope of movement and exits and were well used.  Whilst there were two directors the performance suggested that they were both “singing from the same hymn sheet” with the cast understanding clearly what was required of them.  There was a large support team on the production side and detail had obviously been considered in every department including the programme. Karen Wray, the musical director, provided music that was very enjoyable to listen to. Thank you for giving Andrew and I an enjoyable evening.

  

 

Adjudicator – Kate Sheffield

Assisted by – Andrew Hodgson