THERE are three essential ingredients for a successful village pantomime – a good script, talented performers and a strong sense of community. If you get all three coming together well you hit the jackpot, which is pretty much what Tarrant Valley Players did with Treasure Island at Tarrant Keyneston’s Ann Biddlecombe Hall.
The Tarrant villages are all different and they have individual characters but they share a real sense of community and nowhere is that more evident than their annual pantomime, when people of all ages and abilities come together, whether it is on stage, front of house or behind the scenes – or contributing the fab cakes for the pre-performance and interval refreshments! And, of course, filling the hall and laughing and responding to the comic action.
This version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s ripping yarn is by Stuart Auty and was adapted for TVP by Alexis Austin and Emma Chalkley who also played Long John Silver and Mrs Hawkins, the saucy landlady of The Admiral Benbow Inn, which doubles as a (pirate) women’s refuge!
Unknown to Mrs Hawkins, half her regulars are actually bloodthirsty killers only waiting for the call from their leader, Long John Silver. Apart from this very funny adaptation, which caters to the inevitable fact that most amateur groups have more female than male members – but which enabled Captain Smollett (the dashing Rob Chalkley) to have a love interest – the show sticks pretty much to the original story. But it has just the right amount of panto business, and lots of opportunities for audience participation. The Saturday matinee audience, from babes in arms to grandparents, joined in enthusiastically, singing, clapping, heckling and always ready for the “Oh no you don’t” routines.
Ben Bayer made his stage debut as an impressively scary Black Dog, while the talented young Emily Beaven made the most of her role as a feisty barmaid and Milly Herridge was a terrific principal boy as Jim Lard (yes, you read that right – the cod West Country accents required by the script did terrible things to some of the vowels!)
Steve Herridge had a great turn as the poor old drunk, Billy Bones, and Adrian Tuite was alarmingly convincing as the cheese-obsessed mad Ben Gunn, abandoned ten years before by the cruel Captain Flint.
There was plenty of good singing, not least from Mandy Ireland-Jones as a hilarious if anachronistic Health & Safety officer – but the singing honours must go to Rob and Emma Chalkley for tackling the notoriously difficult and incredibly funny The Song That Goes Like This from Spamalot.
And piratical hats off to Rob Chalkley who also directed the show with plenty of energy and pace.