Date: February 2022
Well done to everyone involved in our very successful run of ‘Camelot the Panto’ last week.
This well-deserved, glowing review has been submitted to the Henley Standard:
“We have been deprived of so many pleasures during the past two years, so this year’s Wargrave pantomime brought great excitement and much anticipation. Ben Crocker’s script had all the ingredients of a traditional pantomime: goodies, baddies, a hero and heroine, visual comedy and plenty of toe-tapping, hand-clapping musical numbers.
Director Linda Daman’s flair for capturing the audience’s attention was evident from the start with a perfect opening number, Camelot, sung with great aplomb by Henry Marchant. The magic was soon broken by the Sorceress Morgan Le Fay, a role camped up to perfection by Clive Dow. She plotted to capture Guinevere with Valerin the Vicious, a sniffling mummy’s boy played brilliantly by WTW newcomer Ffion Jones, with Mum (Celia Reinbolt) always hovering nearby to indulge his every whim. Bumbling Merlin (Mike Watt), plans to thwart their evil plot, but first has to crack the secret of eternal youth.
I’m So Excited was a great opening ensemble song-and-dance number with simple but effective choreography by Josie Daman. The fun was led by seasoned pantomime performer Emmajane Hughes as Prince Laughalot, who engaged the audience with her great comedy timing.
The pompous and bad-tempered King Uther was played by Graham Wheal, who growled and grimaced to hilarious effect. By contrast Kelly Doward portrayed Arthur as an amiable, romantic dreamer, who falls in love with Guinevere at first sight. Evie Stannard’s feisty Guinevere isn’t so enamoured, and it takes great effort to win her over. Evie is another new recruit to pantomime but her self-assurance and demeanour on stage belied her novice status and I hope we will see more of her in the future. Josie Daman, no stranger to the Wargrave stage, played Nell, bodyguard and best friend to Guinevere to great effect: no wonder Laughalot is smitten.
Finally we meet the larger-than-life Dame: Peter Hughes’s Connie Clatterbottom commanded our attention the moment she appeared in her spectacular red and white dress with a mind of its own, created by costumier extraordinaire Judi Rowlands. She’s accompanied by the palace’s own Teddy (Jenny Manning), a talented tap-dancing bear who eagerly delighted us with a tap routine. In another show-stopping musical number, musical director Rod Murray’s arrangement of Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear for the Dame was a real hit. With a quick change on stage, and wearing Elvis sunglasses, Connie did an amazing impression of the ‘King’ himself.
Strange things happen in Merlin’s laboratory as he attempts to create a love potion for Guinevere, assisted by a weird menagerie of beings. They sing Love Is In The Air, gradually joined by dancing dragons, and culminating in the appearance of a terrifyingly-large pink dragon that fills the stage.
Morgan enlists two Knights, the invisible Garlon and his brother Marlon (Lloyd Scrivener) to help kidnap Guinevere. Their meeting with Valerin and his Mum leads to the song-and-dance number Love Story: their dancing with the invisible Garlon was well-rehearsed and hilarious. Arthur and his friends start a quest to find Guinevere, overcoming an enchanted forest, a shrieking bog and a haunted hotel with a disappearing bed.
Such a production calls for a talented and committed technical team. Sheila Williams and Martin Lorenz are old hands at transforming the small Woodclyffe Hall stage, and once again they worked their magic with a range of exquisite backdrops. Dependable stage manager Dave Robinson and his team created clever sets – the moving bed was particularly impressive – and with trusty Wendy Roberts in charge of the props no-one appeared on stage without the appropriate item in hand.
This year’s smaller chorus had to work hard, taking on several roles throughout the pantomime. Ann Pearce doubled up as a suitably bossy Nilrem, Merlin’s alter ego, and an evil sister; Graham Howe gave us Sir Lovesalot, a talking clock, and the Bishop (a role that rather suits him); Henry Marchant played Dave the dragon and Sir Ywain; Patricia Frost was Mickey Mouse and another evil sister, with Paula Watt and Tanya Jessop making up the evil sisterhood quartet. I really enjoyed their menacing rendition of I Put A Spell On You. Tanya also played the very feminine Knight Sir Prise.
After many hilarious adventures, Guinevere is found and all ends well when Merlin (now played by the youthful Jake Wheal) appears in a flash, a 1,000 years younger, and tricks Morgan and her entourage into becoming good. Cue wedding proposals – ahh!
This was yet another triumph for WTW in so many ways. As always, Linda’s attention to detail was spot on and Rod’s musical mastery bought the very best out of the cast. The costume team, headed by Maureen Fennemore, dressed the players to perfection, and the technical expertise of Simon Calverley and Peter Knowles on lighting and sound created just the right mood and seamless transitions from scene to scene. Thank you one and all for a highly entertaining evening.”
And here’s a few enthusiastic comments from our audience: