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Folks who know me very well often say, kindly I think, that I should get out more. I’m a grumpy old sod at the best of times and in the ...

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Aladdin - Stage One - St Andrew's Young Musical Theatre Company

I have loved live theatre as long as I can remember, and that’s a lot more than sixty years, but confess to never being a big fan of pantomime. The traditional kiddies’ introduction to the stage escaped me. My folks took me to Murder in the Red Barn when I was about seven or eight and Maria Marten beats Snow White and Cinderella any day. So in my reviewing days I steered clear of most of the ‘Oh no its not’ type of entertainment. Unless you have a little one in tow the pleasure can be a bit thin. But I used to make an exception for Terry Mills’ Stage One productions for St Andrews. That was because he turned the premise on its head. And still does. In his pantomimes the kiddies (average age ten and a bit) are on stage and it is the adults who sit in the stalls and squirm with delight and wonder. I am all in favour of tomorrow’s performers being encouraged today in a concept rich in the charm and innocence that the modern media is bent on destroying.
Strictly speaking the latest presentation wasn’t vintage Stage One. But when you take forty youngsters of variable talent there will always be an element of luck. Any fool can tell you they need packaging with lots of colour and business and jolly songs to cover narrative that even the best of this age will struggle with. This Aladdin had all that in parts, led by a splendid Widow Twankey from Ciara McDermott, it just did not have enough to rank it with their Robin Hood or Jack and the Beanstalk of reviewing memory. But it did not lessen the enjoyment one iota. From Widow Twankey’s Laundry to the Emperor’s Royal Palace Gardens the highly disciplined cast gave their all for Mr Mills. And neither he nor I can ask for more than that.
I have nothing but praise for Ciara McDermott’s highly accomplished Dame. In outrageous dress, and with equally outrageous lipstick, this young lady gave comedic oomph to every scene she was in. Her acknowledgement of pace and timing showed a maturity well beyond her years. An undoubted star of the future. She was well matched by the splendid evil persona of the beautifully costumed Rebecca Edwards’ Empress. With a dragon of a voice and eyes flashing venom, no one would want to meet this theatrical vixen on a dark night, she relished her part. And I and the audience relished her performance. Against these two standards of pantomime the straight and decent Aladdin can have a hard time of it. He wants his lamp and his Princess and neither of them are a recipe for the traditional laughs or boos. Alice Hayden played him impeccably with a clear and pleasing voice and a pair of legs that would entice any Princess. What more can you ask of a principal boy.
Keiran Newport and Ciaran Barragry threw everything into their ‘evening all’ PC’s Ping and Pong, Master Newport was particularly impressive, and they and the demented camel of Amy and Lucy Farrar were constant comic highlights. I particularly enjoyed the ‘Emperor’s men’ song where they regularly bashed each other over the heads. Critics are into that sort of thing. And in a large cast I give honourable mentions to Ciara Shadlow’s Omo, Kyle O’Hara’s villainous Abanaza, and Diarmaid Sam’s tiny Mustapha. Some others are worthy of mention but these three particularly registered. Master O’Hara clearly knows a villain when he sees one and he milked the boos with aplomb.
The costumes were magnificently colourful, the moustaches even better, and Hernando’s Hideaway Cave a realistic highlight to end act one. I loved the spooky effects of the baubles, bangles, and beads song and would have liked a few of those when the genies were summoned from sundry rings and lamps. A lone clash of cymbals short changed us in the magic. The familiar and easy on the ear songs culminated in the colourful ending of a song of the world from Walt Disney. Diana Baxter (Musical Director) and David Pryor (Lighting Director) combined to great effect in this. Only down point was a supposedly knowledgeable critic asking the director where it came from. I suppose I should get out more.
But even with the threat of snow it was well worth attending this matinee performance. It’s the 26th time that Terry Mills has done it. Started in 1986. I still think they, whoever they are, should give him an MBE at the least. Lots of less deserving folks get one. But perhaps the pressure needs to come from a higher place. And talking of such places there was a poignant piece on the back of Stage One’s programme. In the last twelve months they have lost two of their stalwarts. Uncles they called them. I knew them both. Roger Newman, who regularly played the drums, and Peter Clarke who seemed to do everything. Two of the people who give life, and theatre, its meaning. The kiddies on stage, except for a few, will not know who they are. But they are passing on the baton. And they would not want a better memorial. Such is theatre. Such is life.
I received an e-mail from Terry Mills, Director, Stage 1. Posted here for info as, like me, he has difficulty pressing the right comment buttons. We ain't all Di Newmans!

"Thank you Roy. And thanks for the flattery! 26 years of Children’s pantomimes has only been possible with (and would have been quite impossible without!) the invaluable help the many Aunts & Uncles to the Company who give so freely of their time and talent – particularly those who work with me week in week out throughout the year."

1 comment:

Di said...

I agree with the crit Roy!!!!!! It was a great week spending time with the young people - we need more of them to keep Am Dram going. They were all stars. It was sad that I had to fill Myrna's 'prop' shoes but you did Pete and Roger proud with the closing paragraph - their memory lives on! Your task if you chose to accept it will be to get Terry that MBE I'm sure you can find out how to go about it - it really would be well deserved and an honour for him and everyone connected with training these youngsters in the art of theatre.