Reviewed by Gwendolen Pearson for The Croydon Advertiser
Witches in pantoland
It was refreshing to find Coulsdon Theatre Workshop coming up with a really original, yet apt, subject for their yuletide show this year.
Richard Lloyd based his script for this novel pantomime “The Christmas Cavalier” on the days of yore in England, when the Cromwellians banned celebrating Christmas and when eccentric old women were persecuted as witches.
It was a general idea that could have taken even more development, but it certainly made for novelty to have a Roundhead Witchfinder General in lieu of demon king and a fugitive cavlier as principle boy.
As to the suspect witch, she was none other than the sprightly Dame Dumplings.
True there were three other weirder “wise-women,” with assorted peculiar noses, cavorting on a blasted heath “near the village of Coulsdon”!
As these strongly spelled out (sorry) characters, Wendy Cole, Lesley Argles and Christine Blake contributed some first rate coarse acting in a show that was otherwise decidedly rough and ready in its comedy skills.
A company that claims to be a theatre workshop should pay more attention to timing, line-pointing and so on.
For example, the exchanges here between the supposed 17th century equivalent of panto’s Brokers Men, the two thick Roundhead soldiers, were uncomfortably stilted in their stage technique.
Most popular with the children in the audience was the dancing bear (Pete Gregory). His name conveniently being Bottom, there were plenty of amiably awful jokes, with lines like “Have you seen my Bottom” as well as misunderstandings about dancing bare.
Chris Argles was a likeable ginger-wigged Dame who needed a bit more comic invention.
As the cavalier hero Daniel Dash, Penny Simeone, though promising, needed greater panache to live up to his/her name.
It was Lisa King as Dumpling’s niece who gave the most relaxed performance, especially in the comic dungeon scene.
Her tormentor, the nasty witchfinder, was robustly and jocularly “hammed up” by Mike Brown. His last-minute transformation into the pantomime fairy was a genuinely funny surprise.
The songs were lively (the witches again scoring a hit with the West Side Story parody “I feel ugly”).
Mark Taylor and Kevin Gibbons on piano and drums were a plus.
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