Pinocchio with a twist
Written & Directed by Beverley Beveridge
Benenden Village Hall
Saturday 4th February 2017
Musical Director: Graham Beveridge
Choreographer: Fiona Boorman
I really can’t believe this is the eighth Benenden panto production since I became a NODA rep and the seventh I’ve had the pleasure to review. Each one has had a slightly different twist on the norm and this year was certainly no exception. Beverley’s ideas are amazing using a basic story adding up-to-the-moment events and characters, terrific local leg pulling, innuendo and audience participation, and this year incorporating great juvenile characters alongside traditional dame Mona, married to toy maker Gepetto, Fairy Chardonnay plus others along the way, including notable political figures and of course larger than life Shrek residing in his swamp - all ending up at Trumpo Towers! So, with mighty fairy powers we have the dastardly Donny Trumpo brought to justice, Pinocchio becomes a real boy after proving himself kind, honest and true. The twist in this version was not the nose extension on Pinocchio’s fibbing but a varying amount of flatulence aided and abetted by Shrek giving a different slant on fracking! The other half of the Beveridge dream team worked his musical magic, assisted by his band using many well-known pieces. Added this year was the expertise of Fiona Boorman who choreographed well-rehearsed movement enhancing the aesthetics.
A very warm welcome was received from Ruth who had a pack ready and waiting – tickets, programmes, and a very acceptable voucher for refreshments at the well organised bar. Row C made good viewing, ushered most politely by Lucy in the guise of Deathwatch. The sweet shop was open during the interval with a selection of chocolate and of ice cream. Cast members oversaw the evening raffle – and we were lucky and won!
A most attractive colourful A5 programme was designed by Cogent Partnership. Content was well displayed, interesting, with acknowledgements, easy to read and containing rehearsal clips - exuding fun throughout. I am forwarding copies to be entered the next NODA SE programme competition.
The H & S introduction came from competent and master of Italian English, Gepetto master toy maker aka Peter Ellis. Accents were extended of course to Mona his wife (Ian Malaugh), we had a strong Scottish lilt from Shrek (Grant Matthews) and a fine very Yorkshire fairy (Debbie Katis). All well maintained throughout, not forgetting mincing butler Jeeves (Michael Patrick), our all-American Donut Donny (Mark Reid) plus Mummy (Angela Patrick), ‘I er don’t know nothing’ servant Archie Bunch, plus of course terrific young politicians Theresa (Kitty Hind), Boris (Orla Morris), Jeremy, well understudied by Nigel (Roseanne Nicol) Hilary (Primrose Reid) with David (Hector Powell).
Each side of the stage stood giant wooden soldiers. Stage setting was beautiful, with delicate backdrops – sparkling gauzes, a very strong green swamp scene, interesting interiors including the toy shop, the grand opulent but tacky T Towers with bars for the prisoners,plus a suitable cage to hold such a monster. A beautiful flying star and finale musical note backdrop, magical. Lighting and special effects, perfect. Props including Pinocchio puppets, good movable counter, colourful throne, cot etc. An extra brace perhaps on Shrek’s front door might have been advised! Praise to the large team of assistants and welcome newcomers to Fiona and Steve Boorman, Huthrie and Olly Copplestone. Sound was excellent throughout, well cued – a very good team effort. SM was again John Clarke who was well supported by his crew including Mums and Dads.
Costumes which were challenging and many were first class headed by Ruth together with Dee and Kath. Attention to detail throughout. Dancers with flashing lights, pretty headdresses, wands, Pinocchio’s red shorts and then Gepetto’s too. Maroon & silver for the fairy, flamboyant Mona, stars and stripes tight red pants and cowboy boots, Mrs T in blue sequin gown. Wigs to match characters first class. I particularly liked Rosy Cheeks (Louise Clarke) in green tartan plus sash and hair ribbon who sang her solo with aplomb. The villagers spoke up well and wore national costume. Excellent makeup and face painting. The bunnies particularly well done, good characterisation.
Hard work certainly paid off – well rehearsed with a few adult ad libs adding to the laughter. Credit to all the adult cast and a special mention of Katelyn Malaugh’s solid interpretation of a cheeky Pinocchio as both a wooden puppet and then a real boy. The named four village children played by Tabby, Rosa, Sasha, and Billy worked very well together as a team and gave confident performances. The comic pairing of the two bugs Lucy and Holly as Deathwatch and Woodworm with suitable sound effects and expressive movements was delightful. Chaperones too should have a pat on the back. Singing was strong throughout with gentlemen of the audience taking on the challenge of singing ‘My Way’, dance movements well set and executed – a great evening was had by all. Thank you for your continued community spirit, for inviting us and your hospitality.