So good to have one last blast and reminder of the Christmas season, in the form of a traditional pantomime! When it’s done right, panto is an experience for the whole family and draws in the community, and it was all very much done right.
This performance was a delight! Although the great majority of the performers were amateurs, some of them have considerable experience at pantomime and other theatricals: many of the team and the crew have been involved in the pantomime tradition at Florence Park community centre, running for something like seven years now.
So of course, King Richard is away at the Crusades, and the kingdom is going to pot in his absence. The greedy Sheriff (of Oxford, in this instance - played by Joshua Wedge) who with his ruthless sidekicks plans to capture and do away with Robin Hood (Annabelle Robineau), and thereby win Maid Marion (Victoria Wilson) while extorting taxes out of the populace: he is himself accomplice to Prince John (Juliet Dante King), who is ruling very badly indeed and oppressing the peasantry, with much naughtiness and occasional threats of violence.
There’s a novel element to the story here, with an Oxford Professor (Steve Jones) marching around with his research students, holding forth on medieval art, architecture and culture, while being sniped at for his romantic perspectives by a rival academic, Davida (Deb Puleston) who is anxious to deflate his pomposity! This entourage introduced a new and highly entertaining element to the story.
Dame Zucchini (Jeff Bowersox) was superb, as the palace chef, largely incompetent in all culinary duties but the creation of custard pies - making superb engagement with the audience. There was an excellent ‘wise woman’ (Lindsey March) whose wisdom and foresight was furnished largely by 21st century technology (to much scepticism on the part of everyone else) and Arthur-a-Bland (Jane Gallagher) should also be noted, for delivery of occasional and utterly random ‘interesting facts’ under the limelight. There was much well-choreographed singing and dancing, in accord with tradition, and excellent performances all round (from a large ensemble cast I can’t enumerate here!) were well received by a happy audience.
The largely adult crowd (it was a late evening performance) participated ably and enthusiastically - a shout out for Patrick who was the chosen front-row foil for the dame on the thursday night and entered into the process with gusto, and James whose birthday it was and who also engaged with his tasks fully!
The show was ably directed by Emma Webb and Lizzy McBain, with Charlotte Smith as musical director. It’s good, and unsurprising to find that the performances were fully booked well ahead of time. It was a much-needed fillip in a cold and damp January, and the performers should be very proud of themselves.