This year’s Panto celebrated the 40th birthday of the Adderbury’s first theatre group by a very witty re-write by Gary Leonardi and of the already funny Ken Wyman adaptation of Mother Goose, which the group performed for their very first Panto back in 1978.
Directed and musically scored once again by the multi-talented Jamie Cox, ably assisted behind the scenes by a great production team (Karen Dwyer, Melanie Cox, Alfie Blackwell and Audra Humphrey) and the wonderfully clever wardrobe mistress Gill Osborne and her amazing costume and make-up team; the show ‘borrowed’ the theme from Star Trek to boldly go on a journey to the village of Lumpy Brown Dungheap on the Wold (with a quick detour via Korea for a message from the sponsor Kim Jong-un). Heralding the next 40 years of ATW, the show celebrated a lot of firsts with some classy new sets, the band (Tom Shepstone, Simon White, Craig Bowles and Mark Halstead) performing seamlessly great numbers from the balcony instead of the floor, and for the first time in many years as many men on the stage as women!
Narrator, Simon Hook, a splendid addition to the cast this year, kicked us of with a brief outline of the story and introduced us to the ever radiant Wendy Gardner as OMG (That’s Old Mother Goose for those of you that weren’t quite sure); Ellie Cox as her dashing but dim witted son Jack and class-act newcomer Rose Belcher as Gossima, Jack’s girlfriend. This slightly dysfunctional family captivated the audience throughout the show with hilarious performances and songs, with Jack and Gossima sharing two beautifully harmonious duets.
The younger talent in this years show, all stood tall with their individual performances; from the Village People (yes they did THAT song), comprising Billy Cheesman, Hannah Dennis, Emily English, Sam Holmes, Jack Kimber, Joe Wilkes and Tabitha Taylor as Will I am, who gave us a lot of laughs as they confused and bemused with numerous puns throughout. Zara Kimber gave us all an extra giggle with her superb take on a mildly dotty herald of bad news, whilst Marcie Cheesman as a redundant goose strangler turned Ninja, popped up regularly for classic ‘behind you’ moments. The talented teenaged team of James Heath, as the overly officious Major E Christmas (and a Happy New Year) wearing a medallion almost as big as himself, Hannah Marles and Elle Dennes sharing the role as his handbag toting wife and their ‘sharp dressed’ body guards The Crayfish Twins Charlie Cox and Henry Taylor kept the rest of the cast in order citing regulations (and jokes) for every manner of activity!
Hilarity abounded all through the show as Gary Leonardi playing Italian gypsy Medicine Show Joe and his strangely Welsh accented sister, Tangima, Trisha Bellinger, had us all in stitches with some great audience participation sets and Medicine Joe’s attempts to woo Old Mother Goose by serenading a (male) stand-in whilst OMG headed for a bathroom break. We also met the Vicar of Dribley, Anna Savings, who managed to spit and spray through some hilarious scenes and Jest a Minute the jester played by Anne Kent, who despite getting lumbered with the worst jokes ever, still made us all laugh.
The audience had the opportunity to really go to town with booing with not one but two baddies in the plot, OMG’s nemesis Count Cris P Bacon (Paul Cox) showed off his wonderful vocal talents with two rousing numbers showing us he wasn’t really all that bad, even though he required the services of father and son henchmen, Su English and Lola Graham, who delivered gag after gag in great style. Becky Cheesman as Demon Desmond owned the stage as the real villain of the piece, as she showed us how temptation can lead anyone down a path they regret by offering Mother Goose the chance to be young again, despite the best efforts of the beautiful Fairy Bog Light, an ebullient and scintillating Alison Heath, to foil the dastardly plot and help the Goose family out of trouble by delivering them Priscilla the goose that lays golden eggs. Hidden in Priscilla’s costume were the talents of Sam Holmes, who made one of the show’s stand out moments with his dance to a sing-off between Demon Desmond’s rendition of ‘Bad’ and Fairy Bog Light’s ‘Black or White’.
Demon Desmond’s dastardly magic, helped by copious amounts of smoke, switched out our narrator to the woman he’d always wanted to be – the lovely Elaine Bryant – and turned Old Mother Goose into Young Mother Goose – a renegade Ashley Dwyer with a great big attitude, magnificent stage presence and a lovely singing voice. Yet despite his best efforts Mother Goose returned to her older self to finally meet her love match in the Gypsy King, Jack was able to marry his Gossima and like all good Panto’s they all lived happily ever after.
Clueless? Only when scripted; Tasteless? Never; Priceless? Completely. An amazing performance all round and an outstanding tribute to all that have gone before.