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Harburn Village Hall - Panto 2012

grant in puss in boots
panto programme 2012
grantin puss in boots


panto 2012
panto 2012

If those cubs and ankle-biters who attended the first-night’s performance of PUSS IN BOOTS in the Community Hall in mid December had been minded to have a look round the stage and away from the actor who was ‘on the line’, they would have been well rewarded. Instead of the static, glazed look so often encountered in amateur productions, they would have seen a cast that was well-involved and enjoying its part in the unfolding tale. None more so than Puss her/itself. Nicola Tuxworth has obviously benefited from her involvement in previous Harburn Players extravaganzas and, possibly even more, from her valuable experience with the Lung Ha company. There wasn’t a moment when she wasn’t totally INVOLVED, whether on or, particularly, off the line. She gave us a very individual Puss. An arrogant, manipulating Puss. At some times a decidedly self-satisfied Puss who only just put up with the slow-witted humans around her. This was a tremendous performance, and one the noisy cheap seats obviously thoroughly enjoyed. It was great to hear their eager participation in the show, and the actors responded – a shade diffidently at first, but with increasing confidence as the show proceeded.

panto 2012Rob Pooley’s production was adjudged the best for some years. I’m staying neutral on the matter, but it was, certainly, rollicking good fun and, as mentioned above, it was notable for some great participation from the so-called minor roles. It was good to see, among the Chorus, so many younger members of the Players. Bodes well for the future. The, er, less young, Lilian, Linda and Jill gave a fine example to their youthful co-Chorus and Ailsa, Katie, Jack, Ashley, Roan and Robbie responded with enthusiasm.

I’ve just got to mention Jill Porcher’s excellent rustic vignette in John Wilkinson’s brilliant woodland setting. How JW manages to squeeze so much onto the impossible area that poses as the Harburn stage is a perpetual source of amazement. If you get bored with the plot you will find plenty in the setting to intrigue you. Loads of typical JW detail to raise a chuckle.

One of the most striking successes of the evening was an absurdly mature (and surprising?) performance from Grant Holden as Dame Ette Quette From his first entrance he exuded confidence that culminated in his solo song in Act 2 which was rightly greeted with thunderous applause – it had been belted out in true Music Hall style and we had been treated to a mini dance routine as well. Grant’s performance had his audience right where he wanted them. They loved him.

panto 2012 panto 2012

Sandra Dobson’s Narrator started a tad hesitantly on the first night, and as if she hadn’t first-night nerves to deal with, she had to get things rolling from a tight spot right next to the Musical Director. The MD? Her son David, who along with Jerry Tracey drove the show and cast along with unaccustomed volume. It’s not always that we hear such committed singing as we heard that night. Not in ALL the songs, true, but in the majority. The musicians also provided some fine liking between scenes.

panto 2012Anyway, Sandra grew in confidence and rapidly settled into a fine performance. Her dismissal from the Royal Court at one point, brought ‘ahhhhhhs’ of sympathy from the audience, to which she ad-libbed a curtseying thank-you!

The focus of the hisses and boos, the mildly named Lord Roger, played with confidence by Gordon Clarke, found his initial encounter with the dybs and dobs in the front stalls a definite challenge and was possibly a bit too kind and understanding with them.Gradually he asserted his nastiness and this pillar of the (very English) Squire-archy began to ad-lib his comments and become as thoroughly objectionable as was desired. No sympathy then as Roger and his dastardly machinations unravelled.

This unravelling was effected in Wilkie’s spooky wood and under the gaze of a couple of passing skeletons – an appearance that had taken an amazing length of time to set up. It was a great shame that the very lengthy ‘Puss has Got his Boots on’ song wasn’t used to mask this set change. As it was, David the MD had to do some valiant busking to cover the hiatus.

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But the set change and the skeleton effect did point up another great strength of the production: the lighting. Denise has got little to work with in the way of lanterns and the restrictions of the stage area don’t help, but she was certainly crash hot with what she had at her disposal. There were also a number of very tight cues. She was……….um……… on (sorry) every time, I believe she had attended a lot of the rehearsals. It showed.

Lewis Clarke and Ross Laird gave us the intellectually challenged but ever so enthusiastic NoSMO and NoPAR KING (geddit?) brothers. I felt that I may have missed some further local in-joke, but maybe not. Again the pair are part of the youth section of the cast and again a promising couple of performances.

puss in boots at harbuirn


puss in boots 2012
The Principal Boy and Girl – Abigail Watson Bowman and Iona Clarke – are also to be congratulated on coping with important roles with a degree of confidence. Abigail showed some nice touches, particularly in the second half and Iona has a calm and confidence that bodes well for the future. We look forward to seeing them next year.

Confidence, based on a few years’ experience with this and other companies, was not something lacking in the performances of Maggie Gray and John Bowman as the King and Queen. Good to note some ad-libbing and ‘covering’ from these two Players’ stalwarts whose infectious enthusiasm was appreciated by the audience.

puss in boots panto 12

Congratulations to all involved. Congratulations to the guys in green at the front for joining in with such verve AND for their knowledgeable participation. By the way, this was a notably well dressed cast and, Barbara Milne will have been pleased to see some of her trusties being recycled by Agnes Cosgrove and her new team who had worked so hard to get the cast costumed with some ten days to go! Brilliant! Until next year……………………..

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