“Another pantomime for our Times” by Simon Theobalds
Performed in the Shawford Parish Hall Fri-Sun 3,4,5 January 2003
This was one of those fortunate years when we were able join with our friends and neighbours at Shawford Parish Hall and share in the enjoyment of the latest of Simon Theobalds’ biennial pantomime offerings. Simon’s version of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ was very much ‘another pantomime for today’, with a characteristically witty and topical script. The Brothers Grimm and perhaps even Walt Disney might have just about recognised it.
Disney’s demure and saccharinic Snow White was replaced by a stroppy, adolescent wannabe, with pop star aspirations, spendidly played by Julia Beckett, who sang as sweetly as she was easy on the eye. The dwarfs, (Liz Laird, Jo Lockett, Jenny Walmsley, Brian Green, John Hawkins, Simon North and the ubiquitous Simon Theobalds) represented the now defunct European currencies, not even legal nor all of them particularly tender – I refer to the gentlemen , of course! They all looked the part, most effectively portraying their appropriate national characteristics, and giving much fun and amusement by their delicious political incorrectness. Sheila Forbes merits a special accolade for standing in at short notice on the opening night, and more than holding her own as Drachma, a Greek with attitude, who had lost his marbles.
Eileen Gorrod as the Wicked Queen, outdid Anne Robinson in studied nastiness, delivering her lines with marvellous clarity, and her songs with style and confidence. It is just to be hoped that none of her patients were in the audience!
Simon Jones was her Enchanted Mirror with press connections, and an unlikely veneration of the truth, and Ken Staunton her suitably oleaginous Spin Doctor. In their opening number they looked like
Shawford’s answer to the Blues Brothers. Both had the experience, confidence and wit to milk any inadvertent fluffs for the maximum laughs.
It would not be a pantomime without its gender bending, but it is to be hoped that Ian Streat and Nick Wells are not becoming too confused.
In the last pantomime they played Father and Daughter, and this time Mother and Son. Nick did an excellent job as the ingenuous, handsome woodcutter, one log short of a set of tables, and Ian, suitably padded and bewigged, gave his usual sterling performance as the Dame.
Each performance was graced by the presence of the Duchess of Malms (Jane Hazlitt) and Lady Brackenlea (Muriel Forbes) who were a sort of Greek Chorus. Well, not really; they were more like an up-market version of those two old codgers who used to sit in judgement on the Muppets. Elegant and haughty, they gave much amusement by their acerbic comments on the action and on each other.
Emma Wells skilfully managed her appearance when one of the dwarfs (guess which nationality) was transformed into a Frog, and together with her sister Georgina, Aimie & Eli Burton, Annie & Sara Green and Natalie & Helena Francis provided an engaging chorus who looked charming and sang sweetly in support of the principals.
The powerhouse of the performance was splendidly provided by Musical Director, Philip Gorrod (piano & keyboard) and his colleagues, Martin Harris (guitar), Ed Gorrod (percussion) & Jemima Theobalds (bass). Right from the confident opening notes of the overture they ensured a cracking pace by driving the performance along, cueing entrances, and giving unfailingly support to the singers. In addition Philip wrote all the original songs and arranged all the music; a tremendous contribution to the enterprise.
All of this was blended and shaped into a slick and lively production by Director, Sarah Hawkins, who with the help of the backstage team of Kevin Hughes(stage manager, lighting & special effects), Tricia Caffyn & Sheila Forbes (costumes), Liz & John Boundy, who designed the revolving scenery, and Mark Hegan, who built it, ensured that the limited stage facilities were exploited to the full and that the audience was fully involved in the action. This was a marvellous community occasion, and we are all indebted to those talented friends and neighbours who worked so hard to give us such an enjoyable evening.