The Dragon of Wantley – The Parks Theatre

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Director Fran Edwards and her cast really captured the essence of good old-fashioned pantomime, and the production’s pre-Christmas scheduling was perfect. The characters were strongly drawn and much appreciated by the audience, especially the youngest members, who shouted the loudest when something dire was about to befall the heroes.

There was just the right amount of exaggeration in the characterisation. The villains were very nasty, the heroes were either sweet or brave and the comics were very funny. That’s all as it should be.

Played on a pretty spare stage with simple and effective props and large rear-projections, the action moved smoothly, and developed logically to the climax where we saw, and delighted in, the demise of the dragon.

There was a good overall balance within the cast, with a range of ages and theatrical experience on display.

Frank Cwiertniak won our hearts as the panto Dame, Granny Gubbins. His timing was fine-tuned and his comic lines – one-liners and wise-cracks – were delightfully delivered. The other adult leads were also strong. Prudence Pole gave an energetic and menacing performance as Mauxalinda, while Paul Zechner as Sir Walter and Mick Young as Vendetta were the embodiment of evil and evoked loud negative reactions from the thoroughly engaged audience.

Jane Soutar was convincing as the good witch, Mother Shipton, and Kyla Booth as Madge Merry showed precise comic timing. Maddok Mackenzie was dashing and bold as the Squire and Sofya Chernykh was both gentle and credible as the other romantic lead, Lady Jane.

Saisulie Sandy, a newcomer to the stage, was genuine and engaging as Jingo. His direct dealings with the young audience always succeeded and they greeted him enthusiastically at each of his entrances.

Rags and Tatters, played by young performers Lachlan Bosland and Sam Stringer, were real winners. They played the bumbling bailiffs, Sir Walter’s side-kicks, with style and a real stage presence. They worked well together, whether in dialogue, song or knock-about slapstick routines. The funniest sequence in the whole production was the wallpaper fiasco where they combined with Jingo to excellent effect.

Amy Bosco and Elani Bosland, very accomplished young dancers in the ensemble, combined to make up Radish, the hero’s horse. They gave Radish an gently amiable characterisation and were very deft with his twinkle-toed tap dancing routines.

The intimate nature of The Parks Theatre One meant that the dialogue and singing could all be acoustic, which was very appealing and gave the whole production an immediacy and authenticity.

This was an entertaining and engaging performance, thoroughly enjoyed by the audience.

The Dragon of Wantly
The Parks Theatre
The Parks Theatre: Theatre One
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