Beauty and the beast
By Alan Frayn
Wayfarers 14th January 2015
Great to be back in the Brewhouse watching a Wayfarers Pantomime.. almost as if nothing had happened. There was a warm welcome and an expectant buzz in the theatre. Thank you for the well written and informative programme – especially for the list of songs which is so often not included and makes our life so much easier. Also many thanks for the reference to the SFD and the Cinderella Awards in the programme.
I always expect a Wayfarers pantomime to be well rehearsed and slick and you didn’t disappoint. Words were solid throughout with good volume and timing although there were a few occasions when the dialogue was spoken a little fast which made it just a bit difficult to follow. It was a shame that the Dame was not in the best of health. I suspect that he shouldn’t really have been performing, but… ‘the show must go on’ and he did not let you down. There was some lovely grouping and good use of the stage and auditorium although one or two entrances were a shade tardy. Singing was tuneful both from the principals and the chorus, with some good harmonies, and your excellent band under the lead of Matthew Holmes, were sympathetic and never overpowered the singers. I did feel that perhaps one or two of the songs were a little long, but your choreography is very strong so perhaps this was just to give the dancers a chance to show off their talents. Your choreography is always very enjoyable and this year was no different with some quite challenging routines which were very well executed. I particularly liked the tap dance sequence which was wonderfully energetic, and the choreography for ‘Ladies Choice’
I liked the settings used, the scene changes were slick and the action nearly continuous which is good. Even when the black curtain jammed, the brief moment when you brought the wipe curtain across to cover it being freed was smoothly done. The roses in the prologue were very good, the way they shook and then blew away was great and pretty realistic, an excellent start to the show. I liked the castle setting but I wasn’t sure about the ‘mirror’. I didn’t actually realise that it was supposed to be a mirror until it was referred to as such, although what you could have done about that I am not sure. But, I do feel that it would perhaps have been a little more effective if the people that were to appear had been in position when the lights changed rather than wandering into the light. Whether this was a problem with cueing I don’t know, but it happened on several occasions the night we saw it. The lighting was effective throughout with some nice changes of colour and good use of the follow spots. I did think that Flora and Belladonna (Belladonna especially because of her dark costume) were very dimly lit in the prologue but I suspect that this was to prevent too much spill onto the UV. Some of the lighting cues were perhaps a little too quick, thinking mainly of the Beast to Prince transformation but there were a couple of others. In a similar vein, it appeared that almost all of the entrances of the Fairy and Witch were a fraction late. I don’t know if this was a problem with access or cueing, but on almost every entrance the lights came up and then we waited for the actor which felt a bit awkward. All of the props were appropriate and well made, I particularly liked the ‘steam’ cabinets, a fun bit of magic which worked well, although the neck twisting should really have gone in the opposite direction when ‘unwinding’. I thought the costumes were excellent, with a nicely themed silver and blue walk down, but as there only appears a Wardrobe Supervisor I have to assume that they were hired. None the less, everything fitted well and looked good so a job well done.
This was a very enjoyable pantomime, well rehearsed and well executed. Good singing, dancing and acting throughout, supported by a slick backstage crew. Reading back through what I have written it may appear that I have been rather critical, but all of the points are very small and it is because you are so consistently good that these tiny inconsistencies seem to stand out.
The comments below are of necessity fairly brief and are meant to be taken as a helpful guide for future performance. Please don’t take criticism to heart, it is after all, one person’s opinion.
Belle – Kim Barnard
We get a lot of different emotions from Belle and I thought that you coped with it really well. Your lines came across with conviction and you have a good singing voice. An enjoyable performance. Thank you.
Beast – Andy Cooper
A difficult part because you have no facial expressions to help you. You made up for this with good body language and a really strong voice. A job well done
Esmeralda & Ermengarde – Rosie Taylor & Emma Jones
You two were a delight and I really enjoyed your double act. Good comic timing and physicality, really good fun. You do have to be a little careful because at times the combination of accent and speed of delivery meant that I missed a few words, nonetheless terrific fun, thank you.
Madame Fifi – Stuart Lloyd
What a shame that you were not at full strength on the day I saw the show. I suspect that you should not really have been there. However, after the first appearance you really managed to keep up the energy and put in a good performance, well done.
Jaques – Dan Woodmason
Truly daft as you are supposed to be. Good comic timing and you worked the audience well. Just watch the pace of your delivery… it was a little too quick in places… Great fun.
Belladonna – Val Wright
A nice stage presence. I thought that you were suitably evil and managed to get the audience booing without any trouble at all. You coped well with the audience interaction and your arguments with the good fairy worked well. Well done.
Flora – Anna Howe
A proper good fairy and your interactions with Belladonna were great. Nice even delivery which was always easy to hear. Well done.
Le Fou – Ray Jarvis
It’s quite difficult coming into the action so far into the Panto but I thought that you came across very well. I would have liked you to have been a bit ‘weirder’ but that is personal preference.
Gustave – Nick Whyborn
Well, the script asks for conceited and arrogant and I think that you managed that very well. A good fun part to play and you certainly seemed to enjoy it. Well done
Monique & Marcel – Amber Samuel & Chris Holman
Unusual to have a second comedy duo but you really added to the overall show. Monique, I loved your voice and accent – you could break glass. A fun duo that I enjoyed very much. Thank you.
Alphonse – Steve Lukins
I liked your character, you came across well as slightly eccentric but I did find that you were a little difficult to hear at times
The Prince – James Venning
An odd character to play isn’t it, coming on early in the show and then very briefly at the end. I thought you had good bearing and sang well and your scenes with Belle were believable. Well done.
I always look forward to the dance numbers at Wayfarers. You use some interesting chorography and it is always well rehearsed and well danced. This year was no exception. Well done to all.
As with the dancing, the Wayfarers chorus is always well rehearsed and enthusiastic and really add a lot to the show. It is refreshing to see a chorus that actually look as if they are enjoying themselves and it makes such a difference to the overall experience… Well done.
There are a great many people back stage and front of house that contribute to the staging of a pantomime, many of whom go un-noticed and un-thanked. Maggy and I would like to thank all involved in bringing this fun show to the Brewhouse stage, for your hospitality and for an enjoyable evening’s entertainment.