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Once Upon A Pantomime - Darlington Theatre Players

Reviewed by Jordan D'Arcy

 

Once Upon a Pantomime opened this week to an incredibly receptive audience – perfect for the opening night of a pantomime. Guy Jackson is no stranger to directing successful pantomimes, and this production appears to be no exception to that rule.


The set is fairly minimal by Marloo’s normal standards, but is very effective. Rapunzel’s tower at the back is cleverly built into the stage, with a hidden ladder for Suzy June Wakeling (Mother Hemlock) and others to climb up under the guise of climbing Rapunzel’s (Molly Ward) hair. Other bigger set pieces are wheeled on occasionally, including a gingerbread house, a witch’s lair, a cottage window, and an interactive wishing well.


There were several notable moments throughout this show. Chantelle Pitt (Belladonna), Connor Matthiessen (Rosy Parker), and William Swadling (Clumsy) all should be commended on their pratfalls. Ciara Malone’s (Mandy Miller) temper tantrums elicited giggles every time.


Ellien Warden (Poison Ivy), Candice Preston (Rumpelstiltskin), and Aaron Lucas (Monty the Fool) are all built to perform in pantomimes. All three of these performers were standouts in their roles, and clear audience favourites. Their characterisation in all forms, in particular vocally and physically, was impeccable.


Another set of audience favourites were Ethan Lucas (Timmy Tailor) and Sully Lawrence (Tommy Tinker). Their teamwork and impressive comedic timing and delivery were consistently hilarious. In particular, their support in Aaron Lucas’ rendition of Mr Cellophane was excellent and had the audience cackling.


Choreographer Natalia Myślińska has done a very impressive job of constructing choreography that not only looks good and fills the stage, but is also appropriate for the entire cast – including very obviously different ages and differing dance ability and experience. She also gave those with more dance experience moments to shine – Jackson Lucas (Hip Hop) whipped out some impressive double pirouettes in second and an engaging hip-hop number.


There is very little in the way of negativity that can be said for this production. There were some moments where the dialogue was lost due to it being hard to hear some of the actors, despite the mics. Additionally, there were some scenes where actors were completely out of the light and therefore, we could not see their faces.


Overall, the entire cast was excellent in their crowd work and interacting with the audience – which is not an easy job. I am unsure how much the cast could hear on opening night but at one point the witches and Rumpelstiltskin came out of the wings and an audience member very aptly whispered “Uh oh, spaghetti-o” – which really is exactly the reaction you want from a pantomime.


Chantelle Pitt (Belladonna), Suzy June Wakeling (Mother Hemlock) and Ellien Warden (Poison Ivy). Image: Sean Breadsell

Reviewer Note: Jordan has previously performed at Marloo Theatre, and worked on shows with members of the production team. Tickets for this review were provided by the theatre company.

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