Saturday, 3 January 2009

Cinderella-ella-ella-No.

'Cinderella'
Hull University Drama Society
December 2008


An early start from the Cinderella cast at only thirteen minutes late, the colourful entrance hall and new venue had already offered a glimpse of good things. It was an ambitious project from The Drama Society, and the audience (mainly students, but a good sprinkling of children) waited with bated breath.
Unfortunately for the cast the audience was not a particularly enthusiastic one, which always flattens the pantomime atmosphere slightly. One man entirely undeterred by this was Tom Perry as ‘Buttons the Butler’. His natural talent for ad-lib allowed him to cope seamlessly with everything from rowdy friends in the audience, to the most miserable heckler ever, and even to the set actually falling down on him (‘I’m the Butler, not the bloody joiner!’). He was well supported by the gloriously camp ugly sisters, played by Michael Peacock and Jack Smith, who were a classic comedic duo, and they together with charismatic Tristan Ambrose (Prince Charming) and quirky Kit Hargreaves (Dandini) helped comprise one glittering half of a rather mixed cast.
To another extreme, ‘Cinderella’ encompassed a dodgy pig, a dodgy hole in the set which pretended to be a fireplace, and a dodgy witch who was only allocated one dimension of forced and scathing evil. The chorus, though enthusiastic, were underused, and Emily Bray’s beautiful and haunting solo song was sadly accompanied by dodgy choreographed poncing. The gratuitous crotch flashing from several characters was bizarre (if a little amusing) and it was slightly odd that the cast couldn’t afford two copies of your favourite free union magazine for their ‘in joke’.
The set, although quite obviously recycled from ‘A Clockwork Orange’, fulfilled the basic pantomime requirements, right up to the tin-foil-chic ‘door bell’. Costumes were colourful and well suited to Panto, though it continues to shame Drama Soc as a whole that there is always an anomaly or two in each cast whose costume insists, rather blatantly, on not fitting its host.
Perhaps the key is that pantomime is only as good as it is bad, and Cinderella was certainly an entertaining evening. The show seemed to be a hit with children, who noticed nothing unusual in the anti-climactic ending, and record audience members prompt one to hope the Drama Soc have recouped a decent revenue. Cinderella made a pleasant night out, which left audiences with the comfortable feeling of having been entertained by close friends having a laugh, and enjoying themselves.

Drama Dept Panto: An exhilirating tour-de-force!

'Jack and the Beanstalk'
Hull University Drama Department
December 2008


The Drama Department Christmas show this year was ambitious. Pantomimes, though always popular with children, often find dual appeal a difficult task. ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ combated this well by using traditional pantomime clich├ęs, but raising its theatrical eyebrows suggestively to tailor to the student filled audience.

From the traditional throwing of sweets to the golden “he/she/its behind you!” the audience revelled in the ridiculous atmosphere. The fantastical (and no doubt painfully expensive) set and brilliant costuming served to add that sparkling element to the magical spectacle, which even Jack’s questionable lack of trousers only slightly compressed.

Pantomime Dame Joel Redgrave eased his way effortlessly through a timeless performance, which was complimented nicely by the token stupid-yet-loveable character of Ned, played by James Townsend, and the exultant classic villainy of Ryan Govin’s Lord Lame. Jess Bannister was, as the Giant’s wife, perfectly Disney, in pleasant voice and good natured rhyme, and those in charge of scene changes and technical cues are to be commended for an almost seamless production.

Due to the exemplary quality of a lot of the show, the discrepancies marring the glossy production were few. A curious audience member might well wonder why the Town Crier worked in the Dairy, why the entire cast attended their own weddings dressed as pirates, and why, for some unknown reason every single person in the cast and band needed to have a ‘funny’ nickname in the programme. In the acting ability of the cast, any complaints the audience might find were trivial, though it seemed ‘Silly Billy’ (Samuel Lannacombe Oliver) took rather a long time to settle into his role, and ‘Jill’, though picturesque, was slightly below the calibre of the rest of the buoyant cast – perhaps more due to the limitations of the ‘typical useless pretty girl’ part than any fault of Claire Greenwell’s.

Musically, the band excelled, and cannily even managed to wend their way onto the stage, in one of the show’s quirkier moments. There was only one horrifyingly chilling episode, when Jack and Jill vocally tortured classic Pogues tune ‘Fairytale of New York’.
Overall, Director Paul Smith’s pantomime experiment was a success, happily encompassing tradition, the customary drama department enthusiasm, and a good working script. A satisfied audience might even call it ‘an exhilarating tour-de-force’.