Reviewed by Fran Edwards
In England the pantomime is a great post Christmas tradition, most open on Boxing Day and many an eager child has had their first introduction to theatre at a traditional panto. The timing may be different in Australia at TTP, but all the other trappings have been retained by director Brian Godfrey. The dame, the principal boy, the sweet heroine, the buffoons, the ‘friend’ (who holds the story together) and the fairy (godmother or otherwise).
Norman Robbins‘ version of Little Red Riding Hood is a little different, taking us back to Ferndale many years on when ‘Red’ has grownup and is now the Grandmother and the wolf is back for revenge!
On the tiny stage 31 adults and children have fun and take the audience along for the ride. Of course there are varying levels of expertise in this large cast but the enthusiasm level is high.
Stacey Hendy opens the fun with magical rhyme and attendant fairies, Hendy enchants the children in the audience wearing one of the many beautiful costumes by Jo Allenby and her army of costumiers. After only a short rehearsal period Alastair Collins has the right stuff as Lupus Rex with his pack, the smallest of whom, Zack Brittain tries to steal the scenes. But there are plenty of well deserved Boos for Collins! As there are for James Reid as the foul Sir Jasper, once the kids caught on Reid had difficulty getting his lines out.
The Principal Boy (aka Prince Edwin) was played with panache by Justine Gaudreau-Fewster and Taylee Jones was a very pretty heroine as ‘young Red’, Belinda Merry. Both do well but need a little more volume at times. Hustle and Bustle (Michaela Phillips and Zoe Uyen) were real crowd pleasers and worked the audience well, but not as well as Bobby Shaftoe (Sam Evans) who made friends with pockets full of sweets. Evans is a natural in this sort of role and looked at ease with audience participation, something not all actors manage well.
Leading the large chorus were Bo Peep (Charlotte Hale) and Boy Blue (Josh Richardson) both did well and will do better when they relax and raise their volume. All the chorus look like they are enjoying the experience!
Damon Hill is used to commanding the stage in many comedy roles, but few give him the scope the Malaria Merry aka the original ‘Red Riding Hood’ aka Grandma affords him. With a myriad of costume changes, did I count 9 or 10(?), Hill has a ball. He supplies the comedy, has fun with the cast and fulfills the true Dame role.
Pantomimes may not be everyone’s cup of tea, some don’t even consider them true theatre but, wherever you stand, this panto is fun! Go on take the kids, if you can get a ticket!