News and Reviews.
Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves by The Bradford Players – February 2008-02-29
A bit of a review by Clive Linthorne
I often think that Pantomime is a bit like a Carry On film – you know the punchlines of most of the jokes before they come, yet they still make you laugh; and the characters are familiar in each one. That’s part of the appeal – we all know what to expect.
A good pantomime should have all the familiarity of an old friend – but a REALLY good pantomime should have all of that, but still have a few surprises up its sleeve to make the audience remember it for a long time after they leave it. And a little bit of Magic. Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves WAS a really good panto, with more than a little bit of Magic!
A major factor in producing that Magic was the set. The backcloths and general scenery were nothing short of amazing. I sometimes wanted the action to stop, so that I could have a proper look at the wonderful detail in the scenery! The design was extremely clever and imaginative, and went a long way to creating the illusion of lots of space on such a small stage.
Direction, of course, was another factor in creating the illusion of space. So many cast members, and yet not once did that tiny stage look crowded….. well maybe for the curtain-call, but that doesn’t count! One major triumph of Jane’s direction was the use of all of the actors (and I include the chorus and children in this, because they were all acting too, not just the principals!). Everyone had a chance to shine, and shine they all did!
This was also down to the script, with all parts, large, small (though there really is no such thing as a small part!) and cameo roles written to give the actor an opportunity to show what they could do. I have to declare at this point that Ali Baba is not my favourite pantomime – the plot’s a bit thin, so has to be padded out with various sub plots, and sometimes ends up a bit too complicated for simple souls like me! You know where you are with Cinderella, for example, which everyone knows the story of, whether they’ve seen the pantomime or not; but I bet a lot of people wouldn’t be able to tell you the plot of Ali Baba!
Sound and lighting was Spot on (pun intended!), with cues tight, and really added to the overall magical effect.
Costumes were superb all round – I was going to be picky and say that Dave was too well dressed as a beggar, but as he turns out in the end to be not so destitute as he makes out, I guess that explains that one! And I hesitate to say that Sue looked almost too feminine in her first costume – that really is picky of me, as everyone connected with making the costumes can be extremely proud of their efforts. Professional quality! – which really can be said of many aspects of this production, certainly the costumes.
Make up was just right, often overdone in panto, but not in this show – a wise decision to paint on the moustaches – stick on ones can be very distracting for an audience, watching them gradually become unstuck (not to mention being an extra worry for the actor, of course!)
In the programme, Margaret is described as Prop Maker Extraordinaire – I couldn’t have put it better myself, it just about sums up the marvellous job she did – and that Camel was superb! Well done Margaret!
Choice of musical numbers was great, I thought – fairly safe choices, generally, and nothing wrong with that. The thing with musical numbers in Panto is that they should be part of the plot, rather than stopping the action for a song then starting it again when the number comes to an end. The songs that worked the best were the ones which were acted as well as sung – notably Jane and Dave’s “Money Makes the World Go Round”, Lynn and Tim with “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”, and Jim and Dave’s “Do You think I’m Sexy”.
The choreography worked, too. Kept nice and simple (I know, that’s easy for me to say, just watching!), much better to see uncomplicated moves done well rather than people having to cope with difficult choreography.
And now for the cast – well, here goes…..
Tom as Al Rancid – Great first entrance (always important), and kept up the sleazy nastiness throughout – just a tad more threatening banter with the audience would have made us hate him even more, but that’s just me being picky again, generally a great baddie!
The two Genies – I’ve lumped these together because I thought it was great casting – they really complimented each other, and both Lynn and Monty had great presence, in completely different ways, obviously!
Abdul (David) and Hassan (Tim) – Great fun! The important thing with these types of roles is to keep the pace going, and David and Tim certainly did that. They both made good connection with the audience, and, very importantly, enjoyed themselves, ensuring that we did too!
Beggar (Dave) – This is a great example of a seemingly not so important panto role (except that he turns out to be not quite what he seems, of course), which is great fun to play, but is not always made the most of. But in this case, Dave definitely made the most of it – great interacton with cast and audience!
Salome and Mustapha Lot (Jane and David) – these two make a great double act…. And this carried over on to the stage too! Both were well thought out characters, and carried off with “aplomb” (or “a plum” in the mouth, in Jane’s case!). We weren’t sure whether we should be sympathising with Mustapha or booing him at times, though – he had a lot to put up with!
Fatima Baba was everything a Dame should be. Jim played her just right – not too overpowering, but a nice friendly Dame who the audience loved.
Ali Baba – Very difficult to be a good Principal Boy – everyone knows that he’s a girl, so why try to be too boyish? Sue certainly wasn’t boyish! But we all knew she was pretending to be a boy, and I felt that she made a great Ali Baba – probably a better one than she realised herself at times, if that makes sense!
Vizier – One of the many pleasing things about this panto was the performance of the younger members of the cast – I thought Matthew was tremendous, especially in his first scene, where he commanded the stage like a veteran! Hang on to him, don’t let him disappear like so many of the young men you see in local pantos!
Lotus Blossom – Well, Principal girl is not the greatest part in panto for a talented actress, but Chloe did the job perfectly. She looked the part, and knew exactly what was needed in this role. Acting is not always about doing stuff, it’s often about not doing stuff on stage– and Chloe showed a great knowledge of when to be active and when not to. Hope that makes sense!
Princess 2 – Probably the most difficult role of all! In every other part, the actor could put in a bit of their own personality – but Emma couldn’t do that, she had to be a clone of Lotus Blossom. Well done Emma (and Jane E for the direction)! It would have been so easy to just put on an identical costume and hope for the best, but you’d obviously thought a lot about how this was going to be done convincingly, and it worked!
Morgiana – Another character that could have been just a “throw away” role to give someone else a chance to get on stage, act a bit and sing a song, but Carol Ann made it a lot more than that, making Morgiana a “real” person, which is what acting is all about!
Mr Farouk – This is a great part for a young actor – this Massage Parlour scene was a great scene all round, by the way, much better than the tired old kitchen scene! Liam had great personality, and enjoyed himself, as we did watching him!
Slave – Not the largest part, but Graham ensured that he was noticed – and again, the personality came across rather than just delivering the lines, and then going over the road to the pub until the curtain-call!
Daphne the Camel – Well done, Zach – you never put a foot wrong. Make sure they give you a part next year where we can see your face, playing in a skin is probably the most thankless task of all, but so important!
Senior Chorus – I always hate it when I hear someone (no names!) say that they’re in the Panto, but just in the Chorus! If you’re on stage, the audience will be watching you, and if you have a line (or even if you haven’t), you’re an actor! And to be fair, everyone in this Chorus realised that, and acted their socks off! I never noticed anyone hiding, and trust me the audience always notices if someone switches off! It goes without saying that the odd male Senior Chorus member or two would have been welcome, but I’m well aware that it’s always a problem!
And last, (but definitely not least!), the Thieves and Harem Girls – they were all brilliant! They all knew what they were doing, and individually and collectively were all acting from the moment they got on stage until the moment they came off. Well done kids!
So, congratulations to everyone involved (including Graham and Charlotte for the fastest raffle in the history of Theatre! This was a great evenings entertainment. OK, personally I would have liked to have an audience participation song and dedications, but know I how time consuming this can be – so if it had meant cutting something else to make way for it, I’m happy!
Thanks to you all, and I look forward to next year’s show!
Review of The Snow Queen Feb 2007
Written by Peta Duncombe,
Directed by Jane Emmott
Performed by The Bradford Players.
Once upon a time in the Village Hall in of Bradford on Tone, Hans Christian (played by Richard Doyle) began to tell an avid audience about the story of The Snow Queen. The Snow Queen written by Peta Duncombe, is written as a modern pantomime whilst firmly sticking to its fairytale genre enabling it to appeal to adults and children alike. Whilst some traditional Pantomime aspects were lacking in the script the amount of energy from the cast (excellently directed by Jane Emmot) and bags of cheering, booing and hissing from the audience participation, added enthusiasm and the story galloped along nicely. Some sterling performances aided the audience’s involvement with the action, including an ever so evil Snow Queen, played by Alison Jenkinson, her nemesis; The Enchantress played by Annie Bowles. A very heroic Kai Played by Emma Vicarage, (a welcome new face to the Players) and Kai’s Sweetheart Gerda, played perfectly by Charlotte Briggs. Other noticeable performances include Jim Hawkins, playing Dame Dottie (a new role for him) and pulling it off with aplomb. Lynn Henden and Sue Morris as the custard pie slinging comedy duo and Dave Fenn as the very bad and very custard covered Boris Badunov. This year’s cast also included a very talented youth section who all danced and sang delightfully. Some rising stars here so watch this space! It was encouraging to see so many new faces this year keeping up the pantomime tradition, all of them welcome especially Hillary Wickham who did a fantastic job as the musical director. After the sad loss of Do Plumb last July it is good to see that The Bradford Players are still performing with the same high standards that we have come to expect. Keep it coming Bradford!
The Bradford Players production of Tom Jones was entered into the prestigious Rosebowl awards and Phoebe Rees awards.
Best Supporting Performance ---- Martin Stepney playing The Highway Man
Phoebe Rees Awards
Best Actress --- Lynn Hendon playing Lady Bellingham.
Best Actor --- Rupert Sells playing Blifill.
Best Director --- Jane Burt.
Best Production --- Everyone involved.
Best Costumes --- Costume department WON!!!
Best Endeavour --- Everyone involved WON!!!
Well done to all nominated and CONGRATULATIONS to everyone for winning 2 company awards!