NODA South-East Representative, Jon Fox, reviews the recent production of Jack And The Beanstalk by The Nomads at The Nomad Theatre in Surrey (find us).
This well known and oft-performed pantomime has all the essential elements so loved and so familiar to British audiences. The charismatic but hard-pressed Dame, the daft son, the essential baddie and incompetent baddie double act and the all-essential eventual triumph of good over evil. And glory be, in this innovative production, a welcome but increasingly rare in amateur panto, two-person skin act.
Daisy the cow made a major contribution to this show and two young people, Andrea Almazán and Oli Newhall, succeeded in giving Daisy a distinct and engaging personality of her own. She squealed, rather than mooed, which I found amusing. This particular script had some very witty lines. I especially liked “longer than a Government decision”, very apt right now. I also much liked the fact that each person in the show was given an actual named character which, I suggest is especially important and beneficial to the young and very young players.
Visionary director Andrew Hamel-Cooke is well known for his fresh ideas and his keen and skilful encouragement of young players. Some in this production had not acted in panto before, even some of the adults, but had their programme notes not said so, no one would have guessed.
Millie Jane Franks made a fine principal boy, Jack Pott – I dislike the growing trend for a male to play principal boy – and a jolly good job she made of it, thigh-slapping with the best of them, with stage presence to spare!
John Want was a highly suitable Dame Pott, likeable, real vulnerability, but with an eye on the main chance.
Adam Coburn was a fine Grotweasel, scary, hideously made up (in other words “good” and hugely watchable.
A lovely touch was the double fairy act Fairy Greatgodmother and Fairy Godmother on “work experience”. Margaret Simmons and Alice Baron, respectively, played them for all they were worth.
Sasha Plaché DeVilliers was an excellent Jill, elegant, talented and a top all-round performer. Ella Kay made Silly Sally into something really special. She was superbly charismatic and a real hit! Graham Botterill was an excellent squire. Clearly a highly experienced performer and how it showed.
The twerp baddie duo were Dogbreath and Hairball, played by Sophie Johnstone and Matthew Weaver respectively, providing great comedy.
Musical Director James Marr, with his small combo, provided good musical support and the singing was generally good or adequate, with one or two quality singing voices. Sasha and Andrea jointly choreographed and were able to use the many young and spirited performers in particular to good effect. Costumes by Jenny Hasted and Ella Kay were generally good, though I would have preferred far more vivid panto colours on chorus members. There were a little too many pastel shades ideally. The dialogue at times lacked pace and cues were not always picked up quickly enough. The set was well thought out and constructed by The Tuesday Crew – presumably in-house. Good sound effects and lighting, by Clive Vinall on sound and Tony and Dee Bowdery on lighting, added lustre to this engaging production.
I liked a number of the essential traditional panto requirements such as topical and local gags, well put over too I thought, and humorous stage set signs such as “Ample Bottom, 75 inches” with Fore Sale indicating the bailiffs on the Dame’s Cottage. The four candle seller was an inspired touch. I loved the giant and the voice, courtesy of Murray Stephen and the Act Two Ice setting was highly effective. Lots of visual plusses then!
A word for the excellent programme with welcome CVs for all members. For the younger members, in particular, it is an excellent idea to make each one a named character with a chance to tell us something individually. Overall, this was an enjoyable production and an undoubted success. A few nitpicks here and there did not detract from what was a really well put-over production.
Jon Fox – NODA South-East Representative
The Nomads are members of NODA, which has a membership of 2500 amateur theatre groups and 3000 individual enthusiasts throughout the UK, staging musicals, operas, plays, concerts and pantomimes in a wide variety of performing venues, ranging from the country’s leading professional theatres to tiny village halls.