Little Red Riding Hood
By Paul Reakes
Directed by: Samantha Evans
Production Dates: 24th-27th January 2018
Bishopstoke Players brings a traditional family pantomime to Bishopstoke Memorial Hall in January, with its production of “Little Red Riding Hood”, by Paul Reakes.
Pantovia is in turmoil! Prince Rupert, the next in line to the throne, has fled the land and the evil Count De Cash is ruler! However a dashing young man turns up with his butler to try to solve the crisis. But what can he do and why does his butler keep him close by? Will Pantovia once again become a bustling town or is it doomed forever?
This traditional pantomime is full of songs, dances and jokes, along with twists and turns at every corner and plenty of opportunity for audience participation!
Performances are at Bishopstoke Memorial Hall from Wednesday 24th to Saturday 27th January 2018 at 7.30pm, with a matinee on Saturday 27th at 2.30pm. Tickets are £8 (£6 for those aged 16 or under).
As with all Bishopstoke Players’ productions, proceeds will be donated to the charity Action for Children.
This amateur production of “Little Red Riding Hood” is presented by special arrangement with SAMUEL FRENCH, LTD.
Little Red Riding Hood
society/company: Bishopstoke Players (directory)
performance date: 24 Jan 2018
venue: Bishopstoke Memorial Hall, Riverside, Bishopstoke, Eastleigh, SO50 6LQ
reviewer/s: Bob Heather (Sardines review)
Bishopstoke players have chosen a very good script this year, written by Paul Reakes, which tells the story well and supplies plenty of laughs. The players go straight into the action after their opening number. At first the show seems to lack pace, but they get into their stride very quickly bringing the whole thing up to speed – it was opening night when I attended.
As the show opens, we discover it is Rosie Rumple’s birthday and her Granny has given her a present of a red riding hood – again. It transpires that Grannie Grabbit always gives Rosie the same thing every year. I won’t go into the whole story and spoil things. Rosie (Red Riding Hood) is played well with loads of girlish charm by Marie Bradley. She has a great singing voice that I feel is under-used. She has great stage presence, and makes her role very believable.
Her mother Roxie Rumple is brilliantly played by Jon Morgan. Always bubbly on stage and putting everything he has into the role. One tiny criticism I have, and only a very slight one, is that the dame is always supposed to be jolly and therefore loved by everyone in the show as well as the audience. Morgan has decided to go with the cupid-bow style mouth make-up, which automatically takes the happiness away from the mouth. I’d suggest a different style, perhaps just using a little make up to turn the smile up. This is only minor but could make a whole lot of difference to the dame’s personality. That said, Morgan is a fantastic dame and certainly knows how a dame works and how to use the stage.
Roxie’s idiotic son (Rosie’s brother) is equally well played by Mike Porter. He certainly has the audience on his side and knows how to handle them – also good with the odd ad-lib. I am always aware of ad-libs from amateurs; not very many people can give good ones, they all think they can, but very few of them can pull it off. Porter handles them brilliantly and I could have watched him all night.
Rosie’s ‘bestist friend in the world’, Gertrude, is very well done by Katie Pink, man-mad and a joy to watch. One slight drawback was that she uses a thick country accent, which is very good and adds that bit extra, but it is just occasionally a little difficult to understand. Despite that she is funny right through and has the audience with her right through the show – funny, yet poignant at times, she knows how to put it over to the audience.
Now we come to the rotter, that slimy Count De Cash (a great name) played with relish by Richard Bevis-Lacey. Simpering, but with a very nasty and vicious streak running through his veins. Wonderfully played throughout and the audience love it when he finally gets his come-uppance.
Comedy duo, Cringe and Cower, are yet again nothing short of brilliant, working well together as the evil Count’s cohorts, and like any good duo, they realise how dastardly the Count is ending up changing sides to help the goodies. Cringe (Owen Pugh) and Cower (Dale Yarney) delight the audiences and bring a spontaneous smile to the watching faces every time they appear. Their movements are animated for maximum comic affect without going over the top, and it works beautifully. I do love a good well-rehearsed comic duo, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Granny Grabbit, is very ably played by Ali Pugh. Not your ordinary Gran, she is a wily and funny character. Pugh does Granny proud. Steve Hunter as the dashing Prince looks suitably grand and plays the Prince with all the reality that is called for (and is suitably dishy, or so I understood from the ladies present). His role taken over by Tim Ponsford whenever he turns into the wicked Werewolf. Luckily enough a kiss from his betrothed Rosie is better than any prescribed drug into ridding the evil werewolf’s toxins from the Prince’s bloodstream forever. Hoorah! Ponsford gives a great performance as the wolf, growling and howling throughout. Well growled that man – er wolf.
Pete Burton as the Prince’s Valet, Sternum, is nicely done; very upright, and speaking long regal sentences where two words would have done …but not so entertaining. Very well dressed in his suit, bowler hat and furled umbrella.
The Chorus all play, sing and dance their multiple roles well, adding to the story. Costumes are bright and colourful thanks to Julia Foster who must have spent hours at her sewing machine. Lighting (Barry Kitchen) is very good, doing its job perfectly, even bringing out the odd full moon. Sound works well under the tweaking fingers of JJ.
First-time director, Samantha Evans, does a very able job, she has a great eye for pantomime and puts a lot of other directors I have seen, to shame. The whole show flows well and entertains continuously. Bishopstoke players should be very proud of the results.
Scene One Plus
- Bishopstoke Players
- Memorial Hall – Bishopstoke
- Anne Waggott
Pantovia is in turmoil! Prince Rupert, heir to the throne, has fled the land and the evil Count De Cash is ruler! However a dashing young man turns up with his butler to try to solve the crisis. But what can he do and why does his butler keep him close by? Will Pantovia once again become a bustling town or is it doomed forever?
Bishopstoke Players have produced an entertaining pantomime under the watchful eye of debut director Samantha Evans; with apparently new talent both on stage and behind the scenes, the potential is certainly there to develop. Some of the elements didn’t work quite so well for me, but these were as much to do with the idiosyncrasies of Paul Reakes’ script and the limitations of a village hall venue as anything else. As it is billed as a ‘traditional family pantomime … full of songs, dances, jokes’, I was hoping for a lively, colourful, energetic evening of entertainment, and after a rather hesitant, static and lacklustre opening musical number, there are indeed many elements of this production that bring fun and laughter to an appreciative local community audience.
There is only a cursory nod in both the script and costumes to the eponymous heroine being Little Red Riding Hood (reluctant to wear Granny’s annual birthday present of a red cloak), with even the Players’ publicity for the show failing to mention her at all; however, Marie Radley brings a girlish, naïve charm to the role of Rosie Rumple, courted by her charming Prince-in-disguise (Steve Hunter). Tim Ponsford’s physicality, timing and comic touches are very appropriate to his role – to say more would be to reveal spoilers!).
Mikey Porter raises the energy levels from the first moment he appears as Rosie’s brother, Reggie, remaining dynamic and charismatic throughout, with great rapport with the audience, apparent ad libs flowing naturally and enjoying a terrific relationship with his mother. Reggie’s mother– what can I say? Jon Morgan chooses to portray Roxie Rumple as a rather butch Dame with the depth of ‘her’ voice, but this works very well indeed. With every appearance accompanied by a new garish outfit and wig, his physicality, comic timing and delivery, both towards the audience and with Porter in particular (bouncing off each other verbally), make him an ideal pantomime Dame.
There is a good chemistry between man-hungry yokel Gertrude (Katie Pink) and the object of her affections, the Prince’s starchily precise butler, Sternum (Pete Burton); she is persistent in her attempts to woo him with gritty determination, while he is equally as determined (initially!) not to be pursued.
Richard Bevis-Lacey is fascinating as the foppish villain, Count De Cash, his performance enhanced by every gesture, his character’s consistent inability to pronounce his Rs properly and beautiful Regency costumes. His footmen, Cringe (Owen Pugh) and Cower (Dale Yarney), match him for sartorial and comic effect and are well appreciated by the audience.
There is a good attempt at depicting a story-book illustration with the scenery, although I was disappointed at the grey final scene for the walkdowns – it looks so drab for an uplifting finale and doesn’t seem to depict the opulence of a Prince’s palace for his wedding at all; in all honesty, it looks unfinished, while the costumes also seem a distracting mismatch of styles to me. However, the sound effects are very well done.
Musical numbers are an integral part of what turns a good pantomime into a great pantomime: not just instantly recognisable songs (altered lyrics not withstanding) that flow within the performance, but numbers that are full of energy and enthusiasm, with good musicians and chorus/principals to really bring the songs to life, along with lively choreography that has the audience tapping their feet and humming or singing along. A lone piano, here played softly but nicely, lacks both volume and depth to support group singing or enhance the songs. Personally, I missed the bass range or some percussion that would have helped the chorus to sing with more energy and gusto; the addition of a guitar, perhaps some drums, or even amplifying the piano would help. However, there are pleasing attempts at harmonies and the solos are much more balanced musically. Unfortunately, both the opening number and duet between the Prince and Rosie are pitched too low for the female voices, which could be easily rectified by transposing the solo piano accompaniment, but both Rosie and the Prince’s solos showed that in an appropriate key for their voices, they can sing very well indeed.
Community theatre and pantomimes in particular are a great way of introducing the youngest to the wonderful world of theatre and imagination (the vocal appreciation and advice from a child in the audience was so sweet), as well as bringing the community together, and in these areas Bishopstoke Players have achieved very well indeed, with the audience seeming to thoroughly enjoy their evening’s entertainment.
The run continues until 27 January at 7:30, with a 2:30 Saturday matinée.