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Tuesday, 02 September 2014

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Puss in boots at the Victoria Hall, Grange

I HAVE a small confession to make – I’m hooked on pantomime – oh yes I am!

Although after having said that, it has to be traditional panto, where we can all hiss the villain and cheer the hero, where good triumphs over evil.

Real panto, must have a female principal boy, a male dame, plenty of audience participation for the young and not so young, and must include plenty of jokes, the cornier the better.

Who hasn’t sat through various tired and tarnished so-called professional shows, better suited to land-fill than limelight?

Grange and District Amateur Operatic Society’s production of Puss in Boots at the Victoria Hall provided all the exact elements for a colourful and riotous fun-filled evening. This young, talented and well drilled cast (aged between seven and 18) were a delight to behold. Their enthusiasm and obvious enjoyment sailed across the hall touching every audience member with the true spirit of this uniquely British entertainment – just the ticket to kick off the festive season.

To have live music is a bonus for me, the pit quartet, under the baton of musical director Sue Quarmby, who incidentally composed no less than six of the songs for the show, added greatly to the atmosphere. The musical numbers were taken at bouncy tempos and limited in length – a great idea with many small children in the auditorium.

The bright and detailed costumes and the imaginative sets added so much to the show, results like this only come with good organisation and exceptional teamwork.

Maybe it’s not fair to single out individuals from such a strong cast, but I particularly enjoyed the performances of Josh Callon as a commanding and imposing Ogre, looking rather like an eight foot tall Billy Connolly (The Big Sin rather than The Big Yin!). The beautiful singing voice of Grace Heap looking every inch a Princess, and the equally beautiful Laura Scott with her great portrayal of Fairy Light, Natalia Kitchen gave us a very dapper and confident Tom, the Miller’s son, ably aided by her two siblings Dick (Daisy Skyrme) and Harry (Vicky Martin).

Lizzy Leech gave a ‘purrfect’ characterisation of Puss, Algernon de Quincey, her feline gestures and movement were excellent throughout.

The King’s Bodyguards gave us some of the best humour of the evening, Jimmy Garnett as Push was dynamite! His resonant vocalities and spot-on comedy timing, were quite amazing for someone of such a young age – here is a star in the making. Russell Stubley as Shove, was a perfect foil and completed this very funny double act.

Having played Dame on an odd occasion myself – I have my particular recipe on how to play this exacting type of role.

In my opinion, the best dames never let the audience forget that under the frills and big knickers you are really a man, and wear a wardrobe of outfits each more outrageous than the last one.

I must congratulate James Taylor on an outstanding performance as Nurse Eureka Fish, he never let the character slip for one second and his upper class Lily Savage crossed with a manic Doctor Evadne Hinge worked to perfection, and still only sixteen!

He owned the stage and kept an ear on the audience, never missing an opportunity to react to their asides and wolf whistles.

Of course one can always nit pick – and these small points of criticism are meant constructively – maybe the first half was a little long – not due to production – the show was well-paced – so I would have been tempted to cut a few minutes from the script.

If you want to be fully traditional – good characters should always enter from stage right, and the baddies from stage left – this is something I always encourage. By no means do I want these small points to detract from the excellence of this production.

Jean and Mick Malkin, the directors, should be justly proud of their show and their dedicated team.
I can’t wait for next year’s show – Oh no I can’t!

David Marcus
The Marcus Mark – 8 out of 10.


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