THAT old adage about “the show must go on” has never rung more true than for this year’s Sturminster Newton Amateur Dramatic Society’s winter show, A Right Pantomime, at the Exchange until 17th February..
The company was devastated by the sudden death, less than a month ago, of Alison Mash, who was in the cast, and whose husband Alan is a SNADS stalwart. Daughter Jess Mash plays Jack, the hero.
It may have cast a dark cloud over the rehearsals, but the family were determined that the show should go on, and the spirit of pantomime – which has always been strong in Sturminster Newton – has ensured that it is staged with panache, enthusiasm, energetic singing, excellent comic performances and loads of laughs.
And the audience – many of whom obviously know the Mash family – shares in the spirit, with more clapping, laughing and singing along than I can remember for many years.
It really feels like a tribute to a much-loved woman, who is sadly missed by her family and friends, but who would surely be proud of this original show in which she had hoped to take part.
A Right Pantomime has been written by Toby Greenfield and Jack English, and is dedicated to Alison Mash and to Jack’s late father Mike, who for many years was SNADS’ musical director. It’s full of local jokes (the bank robbery one is excellent) and plenty of laughs at the expense of Stalbridge and Marnhull.
A Right Pantomime is a comic conflation of almost every pantomime story you can think of – Jack, kicked out by his horrid step-mother, accidentally walks off with the Sheriff of Nottingham’s cow, falls in love with Cinderella, helps the five dwarves (so-called because they are short of two) to rescue Snow White, who has been mistaken for Maid Marion by the evil Sheriff, who also claims that Cinders is Maid Marion, and has Red Riding Hood chained in his torture chamber.
Cinderella is running away from the ball, because she is far from charmed by Prince Charming, but she isn’t too impressed with Jack either.
Widow Twanky is looking for a strong man to dominate her, and spots the potential of the Sheriff. There is a beautiful cat clearly looking for somebody to lead to fame and fortune, the Lost Boys are trying to find Peter Pan, and there is a host of other familiar characters adding to the cheerful mayhem.
It’s a real ensemble piece, but huge praise for Jess Mash, who is a splendid principal boy, Anna Neville as a feisty Cinderella, the ever wonderful Ian Greig, North Dorset’s greatest Dame by a country mile, as Widow Twanky, and Giles Henschel having a lot of fiendish fun as the wicked Sheriff.
It was great to see the men’s chorus (augmented by Annie Henschel with a ZZ Top beard) going through yet another hilarious dance routine, and not one but two comic double acts in Doh and Dill (think about it) played by Tania White and Mark Steggles and Steve Bevis and Matt Rawson as the Sheriff’s henchmen, one thuggish and one super-camp.