I felt I was driving into the middle of nowhere when heading to Godney in Summerset for their performance of Camalot the Panto. It was pitch black and I ended up on a very narrow lane with a row of houses set back on one side – and that was the village. Luckily enough I found the village hall and parked the car thinking to myself that if this was the village, how on earth would they get enough people to fill the cast list, and more to the point, will it leave any villagers for the audience?
I needn’t have worried, because there was enough audience to three-quarters fill the hall the night I was there. I sat down as the lights dimmed, and the panto began in earnest. The prologue started with gusto, with the wicked Morgan Le Fay - and oh, she was wicked – very, very wicked, telling the slimy Valerin the Vicious why he should be King of Camalot, and marrying Guinevere on the morrow, and not Arthur. But hold... Enough plot telling from me.
Once the prologue finished, we were whisked into the castle courtyard for a good old fashioned panto opener, and the show started in earnest. Once the opening song was over I found that the show slowed a little and lacked pace, and I thought I was going to be in for a long Knight, whoops, sorry I meant night (it’s panto season), but as soon as Connie Clatterbottom, the Dame, came onstage, everything zoomed onto place and the show started to fly along.
Steve Witchwood-Green (what a wonderful name for someone so close to Glastonbury) played the part of Connie and exceed at it, the shape was right, the voice was right and the movements were very nearly right - I said nearly, because my attention was drawn to the fact that every time ‘she’ spoke, ‘she’ seemed to flap her wrists and hands about, it was very off-putting. But I have to admit, the way ‘she’ entertained the audience and moved about the stage, my attention was taken away from her flappy hands quite quickly. Besides, it wasn’t a massive problem because the audience didn’t seem to notice, they only knew how funny ‘she’ was. They were too interested in the show, and Witchwood-Green really delivered.
Morgan Le Fey was ably played by Janet Chaplin. When she first appeared, she looked a little frightened and phased by the audience - but within minutes, she managed to get over the opening shock and got stuck in. By halfway through her opening scene all look of fright had disappeared, and she was so into character to the point that it looked as though she was going to have to be dragged off the stage when she was finished. She was menacing all the way through the show, and was rightly boo’d every time she came on stage. Great baddie.
Laughalot was the jester to King Usher and friend to his son Arthur. He wanted to be a knight, but was a bit of a coward, so to boost his confidence the audience had to keep shouting, “Be bold, be brave” every time he said “I’m frightened”. Laughalot was played for laughs by Jim Howard, and he got them, all the way through the show. He had the audience in his hand.
Guenivere was beautifully played by Sarah Scott - every inch a Principal Girl, and very good at it, she acted wonderfully and believably. She had a good voice, both for singing as well as being heard throughout the hall.
Guenivere’s maid Nell (Lizzie Munday) was truly brilliant, a real natural talent. Lizzie wins my coveted “Person to watch out for” award.
Valerin the Vicious was portrayed very well by Arran Blair. He stood with the pose of a baddie and was splendidly dressed with a green robe and a wonderful head-dress made from foliage surrounding a splendid set of horns, but why oh why did he only wear the head-dress in the opening and closing scenes? That was his statement to the audience, his personality, once they were removed, he appeared no more vicious that the average bloke down the pub in downtown Camalot on a Saturday night. Every time Valerin was about to show his wicked side, his mum came along. She was played with very good affect by Elaine Howard, and was the type of mum that was forever fussing over him. It would have been a nice touch if she had taken out her hanky, licked the corner, and wiped a mark off his cheek – she was that kind of embarrassing mum.
Prince Arthur, the principal boy, was ably played with gusto by Megan Munday, good strong believable acting. Although a couple of times members of the cast referred to him as King Arthur - whoops.
Merlin the Magician was portrayed just as you would expect him to look by Ian Hooper. The scene in his lab was acted exceptionally well. It’s a shame he didn’t appear more often.
All the rest of the cast were good and believable, and the script, by Ben Crocker was a very good and funny script.
The whole thing was directed very well by Stephen Blair. He had a great eye for detail. The scene in the haunted hotel room was hilarious and right on pace. Later, upon listening to the locals chatter, I discovered that this was Stephen’s first time in the director’s chair – well done.
Sound and lights were ideal for the show, operated by Rae Best and Ian Yellowlees respectively. The costumes were fantastic, and all made by Bridget Gooden and her team. I’ve rarely seen costumes that good in many professional companies.
Even though this was a small village production, a lot of bigger companies can learn from them. How can so many good actors come from such a small village is beyond me.
I thoroughly enjoyed the whole show, and can’t wait to go back next year.