This was my first pantomime of the season and the first visit to a KYDS pantomime so I looked forward to see what the evening had to offer.

The pantomime started with 3 lovely fairies Lilac, Lavender and Lupin, all beautifully colour coded and with fantastic magic wands. Played respectively by Daisy Loerns, Amy Swallow and Grace Upton these 3 graced the stage and were a constant joy throughout the show. They all sang and danced well, particularly in their numbers and Grace really got the most out of the character of Loopy – sorry Lupin who struggled to speak in verse.

By contrast Ellie Russell as Deadly Nightshade was evil through and through and along with her comical sidekick Snivel played by Beau Hens we had lots to boo and hiss at!

Harry the Jester, played by Charlie Warner was cheeky, charming and completely captivating. His opening number ‘Happy’ was just that and he worked really hard to get the audience participation going and I think he will definitely be one to watch in the future. A special delight was his scene with Olly Smith as the Cannibal Chief which was just brilliant and let’s face it – the audience love it when it goes a little bit wrong and we then love them more for that however, Charlie got it back on track. Very professional.

Emily Hatton and Marcus Renshaw were suitably royal as the King and Queen and I thought their number ‘Take Good Care of my Baby’ was well sung.

Ellie Macey as Princess Rose looked lovely and sang very well and she was perfectly paired against the dashing and handsome Prince William played by Ben Collins. Ben is a confident performer and was well suited in this role.

The crucial point in any pantomime is the Dame. Tom Nicoll shone as Dame Winifred Slaptickle. I often see adult males who never really settle as a Dame but Tom relished the opportunity to be outlandish and naughty as well as being one of the most competent dancers on the stage.

The chorus supported their principals well and there was a lovely atmosphere both on stage and in the audience tonight. Huge congratulations as well to the props team as I saw some of the best props on stage that I have seen for a long time.

A great show and a great start to the pantomime season. Well Done to all at KYDS!

Reviewer: Nikki Mundell-Poole
Published at TheatreLife.org

Sleeping Beauty by Bradford and Webster
KYDS Youth Drama Society
25/11/17
Directed by James Stocker
Choreographer: Amy Grieve and Julie Davidge
Musical Director: Leah Cave

Has Kyds Youth Drama Society got the X Factor? It certainly has if their latest pantomime has anything to go by. The talent in this production was really wonderful and I came out thinking just how much they had raised their game with this show.

Funny and up-to-date, with an excellent choice of songs; great choreography, pace and slick set changes, I was really impressed with the whole production. The excellently painted sets, made by KYDS members, were simple and effective. With a raised stage to the rear, they were able to change the upstage flats and add to the front of the raised stage quickly and easily.

Lighting and sound were well executed, this year more lights had been hired in, providing greater flexibility. I particularly liked the green light and smoke for the evil Deadly Nightshade. Costumes were superb with makeup really well done. There was so much detail for every member on stage and all the props were excellent.

The Three Fairy Godmothers (Amy Swallow- Lavender, Grace Upton – Lupin and Daisy Loerns- Lilac) were impressive. Each one had clear projection and great singing voices. I loved Fairy Lupin or Loopey as Harry the Jester called her, who could not end her rhymes. Their ‘Shoop Shoop’ song showed their own individual voices really well, they were all very impressive. The Fairy Godmothers wore beautiful costumes with brightly lit wands, and gave us delightful characters on stage.

Harry the Jester (Charlie Warner), bounced on, full of energy and his smile lit the stage. He had a good clear singing voice and his stage presence, engaging personality gave the audience the confidence to start shouting out his name right from the word go.

Another superb performance was the comedic Dame Winifred Slaptickle (Tom Nicoll). Over six feet tall, he towered above the rest of the cast playing the dame as if he was a professional pantomime actor. Picking out an audience member he kept his persona throughout the whole of the show and boy could he move. He had a great stage presence working so well with Charlie to make the perfect foil for one another.

The King and Queen (Marcus Renshaw & Emily Hatton) retained their regal characters throughout. The Queen sang ‘Take good care of my baby’ with a beautiful clear voice. Harbour master/Ticket Seller/Captain (Tommy Metcalf) gave us an excellent array of characters and the Cannibal chief (Olly Smith) had great fun with his wig on stage.

The evil role – Deadly Nightshade, was excellently portrayed by Elllie Russell, with her sidekick Snivel (Beau Hens) Ellie was in her element with this role and relished every line she delivered getting the audience booing and hissing. A great costume for her too. Young Snivel was a joy to watch and I loved his dancing in the Queen Song ‘Another one bites the dust’.

The handsome Prince (Ben Collins) was truly confident and comfortable on stage with a clear melodic voice which now sounds much deeper than I remember from earlier this summer in Joseph. Singing Take That’s ‘The greatest day of our lives’ with pretty Princess Rose (Ellie Macey), the two harmonised well together and both gave very credible strong performances.

The ensembles were this year well-choreographed; they danced and sang their hearts out, no straying over the stage but each one knowing where and what they had to do. They all had lots of costume changes to work out but obviously enjoyed being in such a fun production.

This hardworking youth group, who make all their own sets, costumes etc., should be so proud of this show. Definitely the best pantomime I have seen in a long time and I hope that this group go from strength to strength, as good youth groups are few and far between. This one is definitely one of the best.

Congratulations to all cast, crew and to James Stocker, the director, for a superb show.

NORTH ESSEX THEATRE GUILD
SHOWCASE FESTIVAL 2017-2018

Group: K.Y.D.S.
Production: Sleeping Beauty
Venue: Thurstable School
Date: 25th November 2017
Director: James Stocker

Introduction

Although still November this was the first taste of the pantomime season for us and in recent years Sleeping Beauty has not been done as much. We were intrigued to see how the group would handle this very traditional tale.

Front of House Managers Ann Morton, James Stocker
Front of house Assistants Ray Banks, Lee Cole, Jo Greed, Lucy Greed, Leah Cave

We were given a warm and friendly welcome by some very enthusiastic front of house staff. There were plenty of them to show people to seats and sell raffle tickets and merchandise. Being a matinee there was an eager family audience and a well stocked refreshment bar in the foyer. The front of house announcements were upbeat and set the tone for the show.

Artwork & Poster Design Marcus Churchill
Programme Alexandra Berriman
Publicity Kerry Stocker

The bright pink used as a base colour for the programme and poster was eve-catching and the symbols incorporated into the design provided clues as to the essence of the story. The programme was very helpful with pictures of the cast and lots of useful information regarding the group which clearly receives strong support from the local community. A very helpful inclusion was the lyrics for the audience song. It was also interesting to read the comments from the cast about their roles and experiences. The show was well attended so the publicity has been successful.

Set/Props Design & Construction Team Keven Morton, Ann Morton, Chris Robards, Louise Robards, Simon Leorns, Kerry Stocker, Brad Cole

The basic set design worked well in maximising the space available to accommodate the large cast. By using three levels the audience could see everything clearly. Simple additions of movable scenery such as the cottage in the woods worked well giving the setting without intruding too much on the available space. Brightly painted flats using palace type features of curtains and columns gave the necessary grandeur. The ship’s wheel made a simple transformation to turn the palace into a ship supported by the sky and clouds on the flats. The use of tabs at significant moments helped to negate the need for extra scenery so the action was not delayed.

Props were beautifully detailed the fairy wands with tinsel and LED lights and Deadly Nightshade’s staff with its sinister green light was a good contrast. The kitchen trolley for cake-making and the ovens were great additions and the spinning wheel authentic. All was thoughtfully done and well executed.

Stage Management Team Keven Morton, Brad Cole, Emily Jowett, Lee Cole

This team were well-drilled in their moves and so set and scene changes were managed smoothly and efficiently.

Technical Team Libbie Read, Woody Whymark, Jake Luniss

Lighting was effectively deployed to add to the mood of the different scenes. The purple and green light was the herald to Deadly Nightshade’s entrances sometimes augmented with smoke. The romantic touch of the red light and glitterball for ‘Greatest Day’ worked well. Warmer lighting for the interior scenes was contrasted with the brighter daylight for the island scenes. Cues were efficiently executed.

The sound effects also came in on cue but with the musical numbers there was a always a momentary pause just before the music started and in ‘Greatest Day’ the balance between the voices was stilted so we could not hear Rose as clearly as the Prince. This is a difficult thing to co-ordinate with so many radio mics and certainly did not detract from the enjoyment of the show.

Wardrobe Alice Mason & Alexandra Berriman

A sensible balance of ‘in house’ and hired costumes gave us a colourful spectacle throughout. A lovely array of traditionally dressed fairy tale characters appeared in the woodland cottage scene, Red Riding Hood & Big Blue Balaclava (a nice pairing), Snow White and Hansel & Gretel.

The costumes for the Royal court used rich colours which worked well against the brasher colours of the Dame and the Jester, the fairies in shiny satin and the plainer clothing for the village folk. Rose’s wholesome image was reflected in her simple gingham dress and white blouse. A few more specialised costumes such as the trees were cleverly constructed and very effective allowing the wearers to move their branches realistically. The pantomime horse had a delightfully goofy expression with his orange mane standing out against the deep brown of his coat. The Adjudicator’s coat had plenty of showbiz sparkle and the cannibals in their leopard skin cave man outfits looked good against the tropical island setting. We were also treated to the splendid appearance of a Chinese dragon.

The Dame’s outfits made good use of coloured spotted fabrics and a sensible choice of shoes allowed Tom to move freely, quickly and nimbly about the stage. Her wedding outfit was fluffy, flamboyant and fun. Harry’s costume with its bright blocks of purple, green and yellow with purple Aladdin-style shoes ensured he was never missed on stage. Deadly Nightshade in black and green with draped fabric and swirling cape added to her sinister persona, and Snivel, her sidekick in tailcoat and black trousers echoing his mistress’ look.

Backstage Team Louise Robards, Leena Loerns, Alice Mason, Rachel Collins, Anne-Marie Renshaw, Jo Irons, Sophie Stocker, Pamela Hyde, Kerry Stocker, Julie Davidge

With such a large cast and so many changes of costume to be managed this team really rose to the occasion. The cast appeared appropriately dressed and co-ordinated with hairstyles and make-up. There had been careful attention to detail in matching make-up to character – the glittering fairies, the rosy cheeked jester, the wild haired cannibal chief to name but a few. I liked the way that Deadly Nightshade and Snivel’s make-up were similar in style and colour making it easy for the audience to identify where his loyalty lay. Congratulations on great teamwork.

Production Manager Alexandra Berriman

A key role in this production pulling together the back and front stage aspects of the show to help achieve a smooth running production.

Production assistant Alice Mason

Having another person in the production team would have helped with the responsibilities this production generated.

Choreography Amy Grieve & Julie Davidge

This was thoughtfully done, working with a large cast and making the most of their individual talents allowed us to enjoy solos and ensemble dances. There was a nice 60’s feel to the choreography at the start of Act 2 for the ‘Shoop Shoop song’ and during ‘Take Good Care of My Baby’ some simple choreography allowed free movement of the chorus. The whole court were on form during ‘Move It’.  Energetic solos from the Dame and Snivel along with the dancing trees
all added to the fun. All were well rehearsed and performed with confidence.

Musical director Leah Cave

Leah should be credited with some great choices of songs, lots of upbeat tunes with toe-tapping rhythms. The cast had been very well rehearsed, knew the songs well and sang with confidence. That reflects the work that you must have put in and the trust they placed in your guidance. Of all the musical numbers the only one we felt did not work as well was ‘Greatest Day’ – this could have been because the sound was not well balanced during this number.

Rehearsal Assistants Ann Morton, Ray Banks, Leena Loerns, Brad Cole, Jo Greed

A good idea with such a big production to have a team of assistants on board. What came across clearly was that there was a shared vision which led to a cohesive approach to the show. Well done.

CAST

Princess Rose Ellie Macey

This is a tricky role as the Princess is almost too good to be true which was why it was nice to see that the kiss to wake her up proved to be more enjoyable than we might expect from a demure young royal. Ellie played her with graceful elegance and a twinkle in her eye which made her seem more real. When speaking lines that showed excitement her diction became less clear so keep working on that. She has a sweet singing voice and proved a good foil for some of the comedy. A nicely rounded performance.

Prince William Ben Collins

Ben looked splendid in his military style costume and moved confidently around the stage with a slight swagger which suited the character well. Lines were delivered clearly and expressively. His interaction with Rose was fun and he made us believe he had fallen for the Princess and his bravado in rescuing her added to the characterisation.

Queen Camellia Emily Hatton

As the queen, Emily spoke well and conveyed concern sincerely. She looked regal in her red and cream gown – just be aware of keeping your head up when speaking, there was a tendency to look down, we needed to see her facial expressions more. She was very touching as she said farewell to her baby daughter.

King Basil Marcus Renshaw

We had a clear impression of Marcus playing someone older than himself and his rather bluff manner contrasted with his wife’s more considered behaviour. When he became animated in his speech, showing anger or agitation or raising the volume his diction became harder to follow, this is something to work on.

Dame Winifred Slaptickle Tom Nicoll

Tom gave us the most wonderful, exuberant dame! He really took ownership of the stage from his first entrance and quickly established a rapport with the audience. His flirtations with ‘Mike’ were very funny as was emphasised by the change in his body language as he tried to make a seductive exit every time he went down the steps near Mike to exit. Vocally strong and clear he seemed to relish the singing and we loved his dance moves in ‘I Like To Move It’. He managed all the physical stage business well and his energised performance helped to sustain the pace of the whole production – an excellent characterisation that was engaging and entertaining. Congratulations.

Harry the Jester Charlie Warner

Bright and breezy was just the right approach to this character, Charlie has a good voice shown by his singing of ‘Happy.’ He showed skill in his interactions with the Dame – this is tricky when you have two strong characters each with a comic dimension. Timing was good and the younger members of the audience loved his reactions.

Fairy Lilac Daisy Loerns
Fairy Lavender Amy Swallow

I hope Daisy and Amy won’t mind being spoken of together but they made a lovely pair of sparkly and magical fairies. The rhyming text was well sustained and expressively delivered and their interactions with Lupin very entertaining. They looked good and far from being ‘twee’ they proved to be helpful narrators and the sister like relationship between all the fairies worked well.

Fairy Lupin Grace Upton

We enjoyed Grace’s increasing annoyance at the title of ‘Fairy Loopy’ it helped to give an edge to a role that could easily have been quite predictable. Her spiky responses and cross gestures showed she was no pushover! She engaged the audience quickly and proved popular with the younger audience members.

Deadly Nightshade Ellie Russell

Ellie certainly sounded every inch the villain with her gravelly tones and cackling laugh. The audience loved to hate her, she moved confidently using the front area of the stage to threaten and curse at the audience. Her exchanges with Snivel were clear and her resentment at not being invited to the christening was very sinister. Her entrances were greeted with a definite reaction from the audience – just what was needed. Ellie clearly relished the role and we enjoyed her performance.

Snivel Beau Hens

Beau’s performance reminded me of ‘Igor’ in ‘The Young Frankenstein’ being both sinister and endearing – not an easy trick to achieve. Physically there was a nice mixture of ‘mummy-style’ walking, dragging one leg and then some pretty nifty dance moves during ‘Another one Bites The Dust.’ Strong, clear delivery and good exchanges with Deadly Nightshade made this a strong performance.

Harbour Master/Ticket seller/Captain Tommy Metcalf

A selection of small but essential roles carried out well. Tommy managed to differentiate between them with the help of costumes and accessories and some comic exchanges with the Dame. A very useful performer.

Cannibal Chief Olly Smith

Olly’s portrayal of this larger than life character was energetic and entertaining. In his rush to deliver his lines he did fluff but managed to turn that to his advantage with a quick comic recovery. A lovely cameo and his enjoyment in playing this role was clear.

Ensemble Annabel Bradshaw. Eden Rain Hewes, Ellisia Paper, Emily Pettican, Emily Upton, Eva Guerra, Grace Robards, Kieran Sheldon, Lola Emson, Madison Macey, Matilda Hens, Matthew Greed, Mia Cox, Millie Sheldrick, Morgan Sheldon, Olivia Deighton, Olly Smith, Steven Hyde, Tom Hennessey, Tommy Metcalf.

All members of the ensemble performed with confidence and purpose. We felt they all knew exactly what to do and when so they always looked busy when on stage – just as it should be! Clearing up in the court and taking on smaller but essential roles such as the palace guards they were a useful addition to the scene. I would have liked them to smile a bit more when singing especially near the beginning to sustain the upbeat mood of the opening. There were good reactions from them when leaving the court after the baby was cursed. Special mention must be given to Kieran Sheldon for his comic timing as the Adjudicator and his interplay with the Dame. A well-disciplined ensemble who added colour and vibrancy to the show.

Director James Stocker

There is much to praise in this production. We were struck from the outset by the level of commitment and confidence that had gone in to the performances and co-ordination of the show. From the comments of the cast members it seems that the group has nurtured the talents of its members as many have been in many shows.

We also felt that there had been a shared vision and carefully planned approach between the members of the production team to bring all the elements of the show together. All of this requires strong leadership to bring out the best in all.

The show was briskly paced with a slightly longer first half which kept the audience fully engaged. Exits and entrances were spot on and sight lines were clear. There were some opportunities when you seem to have allowed the cast to bring their own reactions to bear on the scene (such as the ‘Horse Reversing’ moment). It is always a fine line between giving performers a chance to contribute creatively to a role and keeping to the agreed vision of the piece but this was done successfully and shows the respect that they have for your judgement. The backstage and technical elements of the show supported the performances well. The acting, dancing and singing was of a good standard and thoroughly rehearsed. Lastly the sheer sense of enjoyment shone through and it was clear that both audience and performers were having fun.

Thank you for your hospitality and the opportunity to see the show,

Best wishes                     

Maggi Fisher                    accompanied by Penny Davidson