Big This Week

Recent Posts

Sunday, 11 December 2022

REVIEW: Jack and the Beanstalk at the South Hill Park Arts Centre

Pantomime may be a wonderful Christmas entertainment for the family but at its heart is the storytelling that draws the audience in and makes them care about the characters, laugh at the silliness and will them to succeed in their goals. For that to work, the creative team need a great script to create a world in which the story can be told. The Wilde Theatre in South Hill Park Arts Centre in Bracknell is very fortunate to have such a fabulous team. Joyce Branagh’s script, her fourth for the venue is superb, recasting Jack as a girl out to save the town of Windy Bottom from the fearful Giant and his dastardly Victorian henchman who, it is revealed, is a Wizard of Oz-style master of the Giant. She adds references to solar energy and recycling to give it a strong modern message and adds a fresh twist on why Fleshcreep is so evil which gives the story a satisfying resolution. Victoria Spearing set design once again is imaginative, and spectacular given the staging depth and a gradual reveal as layers are peeled back and we get closer to Fort Fear in the clouds. It has pastel cartoonish colouring that is attractive to look at and practical to use. Together they create a perfect setting for the young energetic cast to impress.

Director Adam Stafford (who has directed there for the last five years) and choreographer Charlotte Steele (last 3 staged pantomimes at the Wilde) use this setting cleverly to freshen up the standard routines of milking the cow, the baking sketch, the drill routine, the ghost bench scene and the 12 days of Christmas. While other directors stick to what they know works, this team look to add a twist and fit it more strongly into the overall storytelling and while it may not all work it is incredibly refreshing to see old routines being lovingly evolved and played with. They add some interesting puppet work with a mini Dame and Billy and a cut-out puppet Giant which enliven the usual business of the story too although sharper lighting is required to hide the black “ninja” outfits that are used to present these puppets. And then they add a curious in-cast joke where a small fluffy yellow duck is passed from cast member to cast member on each entrance for no apparent reason apart, I suspect to amuse themselves and keep fresh the performances.

Sunday, 15 December 2019

REVIEW: Aladdin at the South Hill Park Arts Centre

One of the real joys of seeing a wide range of Pantomimes is visiting the smaller venues where the creative teams work real magic with small budgets to delight their local community. One such venue is the Wilde Theatre in South Hill Park near Bracknell. Not resting on their laurels after last year's GB Pantomime Award nominations for best script and set designs, so clearly trumpeted on their handbills and poster, they set out to go even bigger and better this year with Aladdin. Victoria Spearing, last year's winner of Best stage design, has this year gone used her inventive imagination to create a huge set that magical transforms with a minimum of effort from Old Peking with false perspective, to the desert and pyramids of Egypt with an amusing simple flying sequence in between. She makes a virtue of having no flying capacity by using five multi sided trucks all artistically painted with delightful touches to amuse and intrigue. It is a truly magical setting and the Egyptian interior is exquisite. 

Within these settings the strong cast work hard with a well drilled and disciplined young ensemble to bring Joyce Branagh's traditional script to life, although on the adult only nights there are few more near the knuckle ad Libs to amuse the well lubricated members of the audience - hopefully out of ear shot of the younger cast members! Brad Clapson returns as the larger than life, over the top, outrageous Widow Twankey and dominates the stage when he is on. It’s a drag queen performance rather than a Dame but it gets plenty of reaction and laughs.
Blog Design by pipdig