6th Dec 2014
The People's Theatre panto this year is Rapunzel which makes a refreshing change from the usual panto fayre. Of course it still has the dastardly villains, the sugary sweet heroine and hero, men dressed up in preposterous cotumes, cute woodland animals, wicked witches and inept sidekicks, bad jokes and saucy innuendo.
The premise is simple - baby Rapunzel is kidnapped by Mother Gothel who needs her magical hair to maintain her youth, Rapunzel's father is split into five people and scattered far and wide, seventeen years later Prince Flynn, seeking a bride so that he can become King of the Gypsies, hears of Rapunzel locked in her tower, and decides to rescue her. But of course, in order to defeat the evil witch and break the spell on the land (there is always a spell on the land!) all five of Rapunzel's fathers must be found and joined back together...are you still with us? Don't worry if you aren't - Sarah Scott as the good fairy L'Oreal (yes she's worth it) will keep you up to speed with the plot and get in a good few conditioning hair jokes along the way!
Rapunzel is played by Emma Jane Richards, and Prince Flynn by Joe Robson. Both give strong performances but we all know that the stars of the show are always the Dame and her sidekick. Preposterous outifts, terrible jokes and brilliant audience engagement are needed to pull off a good panto and these two characters (along with the baddies) are key to making the production a success. Queen Sadie (Steve Robertson) fills the dames shoes - and big knickers to the full. Craig Fairbairn plays a blinder as the somewhat camp jester Jimmy Jangles. Last time I saw him he was being very serious in Miller and Shakespeare and it took me a while to realise that this was the same guy!
The baddies this year are played by Nathan Hussain, the inept double crossing Jasper with his eye on the gypsy crown, and the quite brilliant Moira Valentine (let's face it, no People's Panto would be complete without her!) as the evil Mother Gothel.
A special mention has to go to Roger Liddle - who plays all five of Rapunzel's Fathers with increasingly terrible accents from West Country yokel to Italian Icey Scream seller, and one particularly bad wig! And frankly you have to hear his irish rendition of Will I Am's "I've got a Feeling" to believe it!
The set - as is so often the case at the People's Theatre - is simplicity itself, and is enhanced by the technical crew on lighting and sound. Dance routines from Newcastle High School for Girls and the excellent CLANN NA nGAEL will keep you spellbound and the little ones (from the Jill Errington School of Dance, I am told) will have you awwing at their cuteness.
Sumptuous costumes, topical jokes, singing and dancing, booing and hissing, and a shedload of double entendres, all topped off with a Big Fat Gypsy Wedding - well now, you knew there'd be a happy ending? Oh yes you did! There were few signs of first night nerves, though Mr Scroggins almost did himself a mischief with his ice cream cart (bet he thought he got away with that one!) and once again the People's team have produced a first rate panto.
Rapunzel plays until the 14th December and tickets are selling like hot Greggs pasties, so be sure to get yours booked!