Pantomime Review

Feb 2011

Review by Mark Baber and featured in the February issue of the Heritage Coast Gazette.

Over recent years Bright Sparks have formed themselves a reputation for producing high quality and highly entertaining amateur dramatic performances and their latest offering, Treasure Island, has been widely accepted by everyone I have spoken to, and indeed by myself, as their best one to date. Well over 1000 people passed through the doors of the Leiston Film Theatre over the 4 performances of the Pantomime between the 6th and 8th of January 2011.

Like all good Pantomimes a fantastic time was had by all and it also had a happy ending. That was a given from the start but we didn't expect the unrelenting laughter that was thrown upon us over the course of the event. The auditorium was filled with laughter, cheers, boos and hisses of audience participation throughout the production as the cast sang, danced and joked their way through the Panto written by a large team involved in the production. In fact the audience were literally all on their feet as well as they joined in with the pledge of allegiance to the Captain of The Golden Behind!

It is very difficult to single out special performances as all of the main players were fantastic as indeed was everybody in their role. One person who must be given a special mention for their performance was Tom Horton on the musical organ accompaniment. His unique talent quite simply took the Panto to that next level. Whilst this was an Amateur Dramatic performance, there was nothing amateur about the level Tom plays at. Simply incredible.

The plot itself followed Jim Hawkins, a young boy who acquired a map of hidden treasure. Along with a trusted crew they set sail for Treasure Island to find the riches but little did they know the scurvy swine Long John Silver has his sights set on the loot himself. After encounters with the Haunted Cave and a bare-chested man (Jim Girling) in need of Cheese the plot comes to the head with a game of musical swordfights!

The highlight of any Panto is the Dame and Bruce Aldred, as Dame Mandy Lifeboats, gave a winning performance with a confident portrayal of the traditional Panto dame. It was once said that "Pantomime dames are great to do because you get the chance to talk to the audience and stray from the script without messing the show up." Dame Mandy certainly did this and the audience should be fully commended for joining in with the spirit of the show.

The chirpiest performers were surely Sam and Ella (get it, Sam and Ella!) played by Marcus Ward and Katie Hegarty respectively. It would be remiss of me to not mention their great performances and interaction with the audience and both of their beaming smiles lit up the auditorium.

Nowadays Panto's are mainly aimed toward children, but this cannot be fully said of Treasure Island which had something for everyone. Jolly Roger, aptly played by Wayne Burns, was certainly not geared towards entertaining the children. In fact I hope most of his lines went over their heads! But the crude one line innuendos were fantastic, impeccably timed and strangely endearing and had every single adult, bar none, in stitches.

The set and painted backdrops were effective in creating the atmosphere of the different locations, the costumes had been well designed and made and looked entirely professional. In fact you only have to look at the cast and crew list in the centre pages of the programme to relise just how many people are involved in making it possible. The panto was a year in production and you could tell this by seeing the amount of work that had gone into it. It was virtually flawless and an incredible amount of fun.

We are so very lucky to have such a talented group of actors and volunteers on our doorstop and live theatre is something everyone should be able to enjoy. In their 26 years in existence Bright Sparks have  since performed 27 shows and there is every indication they are getting stronger and better and we look forward very much to future events. Congratulations to everyone involved.

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