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NODA Critique

Excerpts from the Noda critique for Jack and the Beanstalk

by London region representative Harvey Kesselman - 16/01/2010

The excited chatter of children (and adults) filled the theatre awaiting the latest production of the annual pantomime presented by this company.  There have been previous presentations of this well-loved story in 1984, 1995 and 2002; each performance differed from the previous one with newer characters being created and, although some of the characters names have changed, the basic story remains unchanged.

Coming out in front of the stage, on the floor of the auditorium, came Pick and Shovel, played by Craig Marshall and Ian Byrne.  They were both invited, and succeeded, in getting the audience to cheer the heroes’ and boo the villains.  This we all did with alacrity.   These two appeared throughout the pantomime and turned out to be rather a villainous pair.  Ian’s dialogue did seem to be projected rather better than Craig’s, but their performances were enjoyable.  The curtains opened to reveal the company singing and dancing to a lively group of numbers in which they were joined by the Dame and then Jack.  The orchestra under, the guidance of Janet Hutchinson, played well throughout the performance and the balance between singers and orchestra were well maintained.

Lauren Sproule was an ideal Jack with a very good presence on stage (although I can only remember her slapping her thigh once).  Her acting and delivery of dialogue was fine but I think perhaps vocally she was getting a bit tired towards the end.  She was well matched by Gemma Holloway as Jill.  As with the last pantomime, Gemma’s performance was delightful; all her scenes with Jack were well played and most enjoyable.  Steve Angus enjoyed himself as Squire Travis, the collector of taxes on behalf of Giant Haystacks, voiced by Laurence Hutchinson, in which he was assisted not only by Pick and Shovel, but by two recently acquired assistants, Chav, played by Kathryn Priest, and Asbo, played by Daniel Abbot.  These two had been recruited by Pick and Shovel and had been ‘students’ at their Henchman’s University.  They were very amusing, although it was inappropriate for Chav to have kneed Asbo in the groin and for him to have made it quite so obvious to, in the main, a very young audience.   Apart from that, their performances were fine.  Jason Kosky was a very funny wizard especially with all the paraphernalia he was carrying about his person.  Daniel Conceprio and Charlotte Vandersluys were ‘disguised’ as Daisy the Cow, although who was at the front we were not told!!  The costume of the Cow did seem a trifle odd and I think I would have preferred an ‘udder one’.  One wondered how the growing of the giant beanstalk would be achieved and when it appeared, was quite clever. 

The set for the second act was excellent, although there is no mention in the programme whether it had been hired, or if the company had constructed it.  Reasonably simple, the positioning of Henrietta Hen (Arlette Kamellard) on a dais on stage left and Harmony Harp (Nikki Amory) on a dais stage right was very effective.  Equally clever were the costumes worn by them.  Arlette’s costume was great, and Nikki’s was very clever with the harp attached to the front of her costume.  The table at the back of the set with the giant box of breakfast cereal etc. really gave the impression that we were in the giant’s castle.  Jack’s removal of the giant egg and the scene between ‘him’ and Chav and Asbo, where they tried to take the egg, was amusing.   The appearance of a large mobile phone so that     the Squire could communicate and attempt to placate Giant Haystack, who was not amused by the loss of his golden egg, was very funny.

The one character that has not been mentioned so far in this report is The Dame, or in this case two Dames.  With some wonderful costumes, funny dialogue and an enjoyment that came across to the audience, Stuart Everett had a terrific time as Dame Wibble and her twin sister Dame Wobble, the latter appearing only in the second act as housekeeper to Giant Haystack.   Stuart sang and danced with alacrity and thoroughly enjoyed himself.  A great performance.  It was interesting to see how the curtain calls were managed with Stuart playing two parts, and it was clever to have someone sidling on from down stage left with their back to the audience, but wearing one of Dame Wibble’s costumes.

Congratulations are due to the writers, Robert Spolander and Radnor Everett who, once again, came up with a good traditional pantomime.  The pace of the dialogue was occasionally a trifle slow, but the company’s singing and dancing was excellent.  A great deal of praise must go to the young chorus (all fifteen?) who put their heart and soul into their performances.  They, and the ‘adult’ members of the chorus, made this pantomime ‘go with a swing’ and, although I have to admit a lot of the songs were unfamiliar to me, nevertheless the enthusiasm came across to the whole audience. 

The programme was very informative and well produced.  I particularly like the center spread showing photos of the cast and the characters they played.  The NODA crest was well displayed and the information regarding the society and its support of local charities was well presented.

As always, there are a number of people connected with this pantomime whose names should not be left out of this report.  As well as being one of the authors, Robert Spolander was also the Director and Production Manager; Hannah Bain the Choreographer; Assistant MD Helen Downer, assisted by Lauren Sproule; Stage Manager ‘Mac’ assisted by Zoë Roxon; Lighting Design Chris Davis; Sound Alan Foss; Props Michelle Edwards; and the Large props construction was carried out by Denis O’Brien, Kaz Slowik and the society.  Congratulations to everyone involved with this production.

The National Operatic and Dramatic Association, founded in 1899, is the main representative body for amateur theatre in the UK. It has a membership of some 2500 amateur/community theatre groups and 3000 individual enthusiasts throughout the UK, staging musicals, operas, plays, concerts and pantomimes.

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