NODA Review by Frankie Telford
Regional Representative South West District 15.


Promenade Productions
Bacon Theatre, Cheltenham
January 18th 2018

Director & Choreographer: Heather M NewmanMD: Paul HardyAssistant Choreographer: Kate Williams

I liked this revised version of the Alan P. Frayn Pantomime; it was up to date and slightly shorter. There were all the expected Pantomime elements Dame; good and evil characters; the not very bright one; the young man interested in a young lady above his station; lots of colourful costumes; and plenty of audience participation.

As always with this company they had hired in beautifully painted backcloths, I thought the one for the entrance to the cave, with the mountain scape with and separate gauze for a waterfall, with the entrance to the cave behind it worked extremely well. The set dressing had been well thought out and was well used. The stage crew worked efficiently to give swift scene changes. The lighting was well cued and showed the sets to good advantage and created good atmosphere. It also enhanced all the lovely costumes and makeup.

There were many well-executed routines from the dancers. They had all been well choreographed by Heather Newman and Kate Williams, and had been tailored to suit the dancers. The opening number got the show off to a good start and although I enjoyed the later tap number, I confess at first could not think why they were dancing to ‘42nd Street’ until I realised the scene was taking place on The Street of 42 Chopsticks. I enjoyed the choice of music for this production and MD Paul Hardy had taught the songs well and accompanied the singing sympathetically. The performers were enjoying the music.

The sound effects were all well cued and appropriate, the waterfall was very effective. Although there were one or two problems with microphones, they were mostly well operated and the balance was good.

Everyone worked well together, with the chorus giving good support to the action. On this opening night I felt there was a degree of hesitancy and holding back but confidence grew as the show progressed. Abanazar was not quite evil enough for me, but he got the audience booing him. The Spirit of the Ring had good clear diction and told the story well, and was warm and helpful. Aladdin is described as ‘a fun loving lad’ and I felt he needed to relax a little. Wishee Washee his ‘not very bright layabout brother’, worked hard to get the audience to respond. Widow Twankey gave an understated performance as the Dame, ‘she’ was not the usual flamboyantly over the top character, but it worked well. Hu-Dun-Pong and Yu-Dun-Wong, of the Peking Police Force, certainly brought a great deal of fun to the proceedings, but occasionally their accents became too thick and were difficult to understand. The Emperor played as a less imposing character with humour. Princess Mandarin, daughter to The Emperor, gave a mature confident performance, as did her Handmaiden and friend So-Shy, they made a good team. Genie of the Lamp, was a good contrast to Spirit of the Ring, he was much more aloof and commanding.

There were some lovely moments in this Pantomime, a few of my favourite were the opening dance certainly set the scene and feel for China; there were good freezes when Abanazar and the Spirit of the Ring were in conversation; the whole of the Cave scene from when he arrives outside the cave, to finding the treasure and the spirits of the cave who were guarding it, their choral speaking was excellent. Heather Newman had worked well with her cast encouraging good characterization and use of the stage. It was a traditional family pantomime, full of interesting music, silly jokes and plenty of colourful costumes. The audience, particularly the Brownies certainly seemed to be enjoying it. It was a good evenings entertainment.

Frankie Telford
Regional Representative South West District 15.

Any observation made by the reviewer can only be based on what he sees at the performance in question; and that the observations made will prove helpful in improving future productions.