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.