A classic pantomime written by an accomplished writer, Nigel Holmes, made for a very enjoyable evening out with Brackley Players.
Abigail Hammond is a confident and talented performer who makes the most of her role as Aladdin and Sophie Black presents us with a delightful, winning, Princess Jasmine. Sophie also has a sweet voice, using it to great effect in one of the solos in the show.
The rest of the Imperial household is well represented by a dignified Emperor, Dermot Moylan, accompanied by Fran Hollyoake as a suitably formal Vizier. And Lynn Fox plays Zing Zong, companion to the Princess, with a nice sense of comedy. I enjoyed the slapstick antics of the Police force – Jane Salmon and Alice Adams with their exasperated Police Chief played with suitable efficiency by Mark Lewin.
Ian Bell has a very good sense of comic timing and an immediate rapport with the audience, the essential qualities for a good dame, Widow Twankey. I especially like the set piece Police parade which has clearly been very well rehearsed. His script is very wordy with a lot of word play and while Ian deals very well with most of it there were one or two very obvious long pauses. I have reservations about a dame using a falsetto voice (everyone knows the dame is a bloke in a dress!), but maybe that’s just a foible of mine.
Josh Ryan is a very competent Wishee Washee, establishing himself quickly as the audience’s friend and confidant, though at times still a little self-conscious. Jim Howson is an excellent Abanazar, making this intimidating, unkind and dishonest character his own – as evidenced by some very solid booing at the walk down. He is accompanied by Lisa Saffrey as the Genie of the Ring – I loved the very unlikely, and therefore comic, Pam Ayres accent. Scott Saffrey provides glamour and a French accent, as the Genie of the lamp.
Able support is provided by Amanda Howson and Janet Blunden.
Providing sparkle and spectacle in the show are the talented young students of the Starlight Dance Academy, who work hard in a number of scenes throughout the show dancing to the chorus numbers with singing provided by the company. On this note I think it wise to focus on chorus numbers, with just one solo and one duet. Some societies feel they have to have solos – but don’t always recognise that good voices are needed for this. As it is, this element is just right.
Pleasing use is made of the whole auditorium.
I commend Brackley Players on their use of live music thanks to Musical Director Drew Cowburn and his band who provide a professional standard of music throughout the evening – though at times (Abanazar’s introductory speech, Princess Jasmine’s solo…) the balance needed attention. Lighting, scenery and sound (in general) are good.
Fortunately Brackley Players have avoided the common error of thinking ‘anyone can write a panto’ and employed the services of experienced writer Nigel Holmes, whose very good script is supplemented by many topical and local references, which made for lots of laughs.
I am very surprised to learn that this is Emma Wilberforce’s first foray into directing. Congratulations Emma plus the cast and crew for putting on such a fine show.