Treasure Island, Highcliffe Charity Player at the Regent Centre, Christchurch

10janTreasureIslandstickyPANTOMIME animals come in all shapes and sizes and are an essential element of the show – stroppy horses kicking up their heels, poor Daisy the cow on her way to market, quick-witted Puss in boots or helping Dick Whittington and even Captain Hook’s nemesis, the ticking crocodile.

Highcliffe Charity Players’ Treasure Island boasts what must surely be the year’s most unusual, garish and sarcastic pantomime creature, Paulie the Parrot. In purple lycra with plumage that would put a Rio de Janeiro fan-dancer to shame, Richard Facer is certainly the most colourful camper on stage!

This is a Treasure Island that keeps many of the ingredients of Robert Louis Stevenson’s wonderful yarn, but adds in plenty of panto mayhem, terrible puns and audience participation, not to mention some unusual extra characters including the magic mermaid (Shelley Gould) and a dashing James Bond lookalike Robinson Crusoe (handsome young Charlie Barrington whose appearance was greeted with screams of excitement by many of the young girls in the audience).

Hannah Doyle is a splendid principal boy as Jim Hawkins, dashing and adventurous, with an excellent singing voice, and she is well-matched with Beth ChUmley as her true love Felicity Trelawny, daughter of amiable Squire Trelawny (Nick Squires in his first ever pantomime).

Stuart Tizzard is a hugely experienced Dame, renowned for his quick wit and outrageous ad libbing and he had the audience (and Squire Trelawny) eating out of his hand as Ma Hawkins, landlady of the Admiral Benbow Inn.

Long John Silver is a classic villain we love to hate, a charismatic rascal with a heart of stone but a witty turn of phrase and David Coward skewered the role with his devious dagger. A veteran of many local musical and theatre groups, and a member of the Bournemouth hospital doctors’ band, Volatile Agent, David credits the legendary Mary Denniss of Highcliffe Junior Choir for giving him a love of singing.

Malcolm George and Pete Whitaker as knockabouts Brass and Knuckles were genuinely funny with great timing and a natural rapport with the audience, combining real physical comedy with excellent singing.

And Christine Duell made the most of her generous curves and excellent singing voice as Captain Corker’un.

Georgina Smith, who is both director and choreographer, has produced another triumph for Highcliffe Charity Players. Some of the most imaginative and memorable scenes include the mermaids in a flipping boogie woogie routine (try to picture it!), the miniature lifeboat that carries Silver, his crew and their hostage away from the sinking Hispaniola, the spectacular Treasure song and dance number, and Ma Hawkins giving a whole new meaning to the phrase “treasure chest.”

Over more than 40 years, audiences know what to expect from a Highcliffe Charity Players pantomime and this year they get it in spades – great spectacle, terrific singing, wonderful comedy and real fun for all the family.

Treasure Island continues until Saturday at the Regent Centre, Christchurch.



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