2007 Dick Turpin Rides Again
by kind permission of Jasper Publishing
Pantomime is for kids. Oh, no it isn’t! Oh yes it IS, and nowhere more so than in Totternhoe, where the kids in question have all but taken over! In this year’s extravaganza, bold casting by co-Directors Joanne McBrearty and Julie Morrey saw several key roles being played by actors so young that they’d probably never even heard of Dick Turpin before, let alone spent several years studying 16th Century highwayman folklore and heraldry in order to immerse themselves in their parts.
Nevertheless Jennifer Tallett (Dick) once again proved herself a decent lead actor and singer, while Declan Morrey – who is blessed with genuinely funny bones – stole many a scene as Wee Willy Winkie. These choices, however, necessitated that their corresponding love interests also be played by equally young actors. And with more mere teens also taking on the comic roles of the inept henchmen, Hinch and Cliff, an overall lack of stage presence and experience resulted in parts.
That said, the youngsters were at least a match for their elders in learning their lines, and all, without exception, showed great promise for the future. However, they could still learn a lesson from the old guard when it comes to projection. In pantomime – especially with no microphones - every sentence, every action and every reaction needs to be amplified and exaggerated, almost to the point of being ridiculous, so that even whispered asides are bellowed to the rafters. Sadly some of the lines were simply too soto voce for those at the back to appreciate them. And some of the horseplay (pun intended) was also too subtle to hit home. A rather patchy script did not help.
There were several bright spots though. Aside from a few memory lapses on the first night, this was another excellent performance by Barry Hardwick as The Dame. He clearly loves the costume, and no one else can recover from script stumbles with quite such panache. No one else, more to the point, could get away with stomping on stage in a wig and frock and declaring: “I’m looking for Willie.”
Equally good were Karen Williams as Staff, and promising newcomer Faisal Mohiuddin as Peter Dimwit. Convincing us that his character was so dimwitted he could be talked into marrying Dame Perrie Winkle was a challenge he rose to with gusto.
Dobbin the horse proved to be the audience favourite – and was altogether a better dancer than the costume should have allowed - but, my star performance goes to Tony Byrne, as the mean old Mayor. The role was not so juicily villainous as many a pantomime baddie part, but Tony made it work with a display that was bold and just about flawless.
As for my favourite scene, this was definitely the duet (Don’t Go Breaking My Heart) between Dick and Amelia Gambier as Cindy. It was nicely sung and the whole routine was a treat.