ROSIE King has not only directed this year’s Community Pantomime at Motcombe, but has also written it, crafting a script that includes all of the required characters, plus a few others, along with jokes old and new and many favourite routines, from the fragile parcel ruined by the actions of the comedy team, via the repeated alphabetical list, to the “busman’s” Lords Prayer, made famous by Ian Dury.
The last of these is delivered with mock pathos by Dame Sarah, played with cockney confidence and great comic timing by John Laing. He is plagued with idle son Jack, played with just the right amount of simplicity by Cherry Alderman. Alicia Fitzgerald as Dick Whittington is strong as our hero, with plenty of thigh-slapping, and a very good line in feline interpretation. Alderman Fitzwarren, played by Alan Francis, with a knowing experience, is an elder statesman on all levels. As his daughter and Dick’s love Alice Fitzwarren, Lauren Hayes is as feisty as Dick, always believing in his innocence and never allowing a few rats to get in the way of a good love story
Talking of rats, there are plenty visible in this production, from the stuffed “cuddly” ones, through the enchanting squeeking “clone” ratlings, up to the four excellently-portrayed court rats (Princess and Handmaidens) and topped off with a classic villain, King Rat himself, an evil baddy, encouraging booing and hissing from the very start, and played to perfection by Wendy Ibbotson. King Rat’s evil is matched by the good Fairy Bowbelle, cleverly written as an Essex girl, with costume, make-up and “Bling” to match, and delightfully played by Georgina Cluett.
Ella Cluett and Amy Maloney, as Dick’s cat, Tommy, and a second, white, cat respectively, are two of the highlights of this year’s show, so much so that we understand every word they are meowing.
Captain Port and First Mate Starboard were well-written, but Peter Moull and John Taylor laboured a little over some of the lines, as the Captain did not seem over-familiar with them, and although cleverly furnished with a Log Book complete with his lines, he seemed reluctant to use it. If an actor needs to use a script, something which can sometimes happen through no fault of anyone, surely better to do it confidently, reading them loud and clear, and perhaps even building some humour into the situation.
There were flashes of Brechtian inspiration at times, with characters referring to Dick’s wearing of fishnet tights and lipstick, and two “failed” fairies, played by Helens Cluett and Davey, who decided to carry on being in the show despite not having got the part of Fairy Bowbelle! These surreal touches were topped by the regular appearance of “confused” veteran actor Christopher Hooper, thinking he was in any pantomime but Dick Whittington, and bursting into every scene at some random point, variously dressed as Captain Hook, Little Red Riding Hood, a Genie, etc.
Other characters were played with authenticity by a cast of mixed age and ability, culminating in a well-produced finale, including a slick choral hand-jive. Music was used throughout, with clever use of recorded music and the augmentation of a recorded piano track with live flute and drums. The set, designed by Elizabeth Hazelwood with assistance from Stage Manager Keith Alderman, was beautifully painted, makeup was excellent, especially all of the rats, and the costumes were lavish and accurate.
Overall, this was a delightful, truly traditional pantomime, well-written and directed, and exactly the sort of entertainment that Village Halls were built for.