Aladdin - Amy Power
Jasmine - Georgia Smith
Widow Twankey - David Brammer
The Emperor of China - Mike Cooke
Wishee Washee - Ben Robinson
Genie of the Lamp - Bertie Ellison
Abanazer - Steve Brooks
Slave of the Ring - Amy Sims
So-Shi - Ellie Fradley
Pep-Si - Tiggie Ellison
Ko-La - Matt Kerslake
Prince 1 - Leslie Judd
Prince 2 - Ethan Robinson
Sandmonster - Becca Field
Voice - Kazuki James
Director - Debbie Hiles
Choreographer - Tracy Cummings
Musical Director - Kate Mould
Backstage Crew - Chris Scott, Richard Bennett, Mark Girdwood, Hugh Pearce
Set Design and Construction - Hugh Pearce, Gemma Laing, Chris Scott, Richard Bennett, Jane Pearce, Georgia Smith, Rob Cummings, Tracy Cummings
Props - Bekka Clarke, Margaret Mould, Claire Cooper, Rob Cummings, Tracy Cummings, Judy Parsons, Kim Thorpe and the Cast
Sound and Lighting - Barry Ayers
Costumes - Judy Parsons and Eileen Cook
Make-up - Jenny Lewis
Front of House - Cyril Pike, friends and members of the Society
Box Office - Kate and Chip Carpenter
Bar - Nerys Brooks
Hall Decorations - Oriental Palace West Winch
The village hall at Watlington was transformed into a sparkling Chinese palace last week, as the Watlington Players performed their 2015 pantomime, Aladdin.
This traditional tale is filled to the brim with thigh-slapping family fun, plenty of room for audience participation, and of course a (spoiler alert) happy ending!
Both cast and audience looked to be having tons of fun with all the wonderfully terrible jokes and superb visual gags. The comedy set pieces were laugh-out-loud funny and I especially enjoyed Wishee Washee's fall into the washing machine, the 'magic carpet' and the blind date motif employed to find princess Jasmine a suitor.
It was also nice to hear a number of modern songs in this production, as well as all the usual panto tropes. 'He's behind you!' 'Oh no he isn't!'
Director Debbie Hiles did a fantastic job, ensuring that the large cast had plenty to do, using the entire village hall space to great effect. In fact, the whole show shone with a cheeky enthusiasm that sought to involve the audience in the story at every turn, and even the unintended moments were handled with infectious humour and a real sense of inclusive fun.
Amy Power was engaging and likeable as our hero Aladdin, while Georgia Smith was perfectly cast as the damsel-in-distress, Princess Jasmine. David Brammer made an excellent dame, and his Widow Twanky was quick with the jokes and innuendo – as every good dame should be! Ben Robinson brought a cheeky charm to the role of Aladdin's brother, Wishee Washee, and Ellie Fradley made a fantastic addition to the cast as Jasmine's lady in waiting, So-Shi.
Steve Brooks clearly relished his role as the evil Abanazer, with a talent for playing the villain who is redeemed at the end of the piece. Mike Cooke brought gravitas to the proceeding as the Emperor of China, and Tiggie Ellison and Matthew Kerslake provided the slapstick as the Emperor's henchmen Pep-Si and Ko-la.
Amy Sims was great as the rhyming, belly-dancing Slave of the Ring, and Bertie Ellison did a fantastic comic turn as the Genie of the Lamp. So much so, that I thought his American accent was real!
Leslie Judd and Ethan Robinson played some deeply unsuitable suitors, and Becca Field was worryingly scary as the sandmonster. Kazuki James' deep baritone was perfect to voice the magical goings on and the supporting chorus were Abby Gosling, Lucy Beeton, Katy Beeton, Lucy Bearpark, Jane Pearce, Amy Thorpe, Ella Webb, Mandi Field, Hannah Web, Penny Cooke, Cerys Books, Cameron Lewis, Abbey Harvey, Karen Girdwood, Jessie Harvey, Irene Whitehouse, Anna Pearson and Jack Bateman.
With such a full cast, respect must be paid to the director Debbie Hiles and to choreographer Tracy Cummings for ensuring that the story flowed so well. Musical Director Kate Mould should also receive praise for a great realisation of the song sheet. Set and prop design was great, costumes were impeccable – as always – and the lighting and sound design served to bind the whole show together.
In fact, my only critical point is a technical one: in one or two places it was difficult to hear the lyrics of some of the songs, due to the high volume of the backing music.
However, that small problem did not spoil my enjoyment of the show, and a very enjoyable evening out!
- Leanne Moden
NODA Review January 2015
I am always well aware that Pantomime is not everyone’s cup of tea. The world has changed much since it was the staple introduction to the performing arts for most performers, and indeed audiences. It is uniquely British in a world where that doesn’t mean the same thing as it did for our parents, but I say this, a trip to the pantomime is still the ultimate surreal night out… and I love it, even if it’s rubbish!
This one wasn’t rubbish, this one was rather good, but a trip to a Watlington Players show is seldom a disappointment. Last year it had been Peter Pan which, although a difficult cross over from classic story to Panto, was executed well, to be followed this year by Aladdin, certainly the most popular title on the 2015 Panto tour of Area 4 North.
The Area 4 Award (if indeed there really was one) for best Front of House Manager would go to Watlington’s Cyril Pike, as it would have done for the last three years at least. His welcome is as warm as a Kung-Po King Prawn, and I actually started to well up as I watched him take an elderly lady by the arm and walk her to her seat at a pace that she was comfortable with. A gentleman, and a visionary as once again the hall had been transformed into a Chinese carnival with lanterns decorations and banners. It transpired these had come from a local food purveyor, not to takeaway anything from Cyril!
The set (Hugh Pearce and his extensive gang) was top notch as usual with spectacular costumes (Judy Parsons and Eileen Cook) and make up (Jenny Lewis) with the multi-talented Barry Ayres providing excellent sound and light to compliment all that occurred on stage.
The chorus was an impressively large affair with the Beeton girls (Lucy and Katy .. or is it Katy and Lucy I never can tell) and the wonderful Jane Pearce leading the way. Everyone was on top form and confident with lines, song words and the dance steps provided by Choreographer, Tracy Cumming. Of the supporting cast, I enjoyed Kazuki James as “The Voice” and Becca Field as The Sandmonster, with Stirling work from Ethan Robinson and Leslie Judd as the two unsuccessful Princes. Mr Judd particularly, cropping up a few times throughout this production with the best wig and costume. Not sure how he managed that!!
In the more prominent parts, Matt Kerslake and Tiggie Ellison got plenty of laughs as policemen Ko-La and Pep-si with a nice characterisation from Ellie Fradley as Wishee Washee’s love interest So-Shi … Yes folks, the puns just kept on coming! Enchanting Amy Sims (nee Kent, and always a star) made a lovely job of the Slave of the Ring with Bertie Ellison, effortlessly cool as the Genie of the Lamp, leaving me still a little unsure if the American accent was real or not! I loved Steve Brooks as the evil Abanazer, delivering another confident performance that oozed menace tempered with just the right amount of comedy and David Brammer was outrageous as dame Widow Twankey. Mr Brammer never looked like he knew what he was going to say next, but always managed to say something funny. One of the best things about this show was the often overlooked Mike Cooke as the Emperor who seemed to have found his ideal part and gave the performance of a lifetime (at least of those I have seen) that lifted the whole production. I was a little unsure of Ben Robinson at the start, as comic lead Wishee Washee the script gave him little to work with and he didn’t really connect with me until the second half where he seemed to relax into the part.
In a production that was a real ensemble effort I dedicate the penultimate paragraph to Amy Power as Aladdin, and Georgia Smith as Jasmine who managed to sell me the love story even if I remained a little unconvinced by some of the other …. stuff. Miss Power has a wonderful singing voice and delivered all her songs to a very high standard with Miss Smith backing her up nicely. Both handled the characterisations perfectly, and managed a few laughs along the way.
Congratulations to Director Debbie Hiles for a nice piece of work and to Kate Mould for excellent musical accompaniment. The script needed more gags but an enthusiastic cast got everything out of it that was available and I had a great time. I tend not to get pulled on stage very often, but Lucy Beeton (or was it Katy) decided it was my turn and I did my best not to let her down returning to my seat with a sherbet lolly for my trouble that I promptly ate, and an offer of help down the stairs …. Thanks a lot Lucy/Katie ! and thanks Watlington, it’s always a treat to visit.
(Regional Representative NODA Eastern Region – Area 4 North)