A monster good show

-Review by Ken Ford-Powell

pantoWHITEHAVEN Theatre Group (WTG) opened this year’s pantomime at Egremont’s Market Hall on Tuesday 7 December to a full house and gave a monster of a performance.

Beauty and the Beast is a much beloved story and the WTG threw in all the usual panto elements to make sure the children there were utterly delighted. I’ve not heard “it’s behind you!” shouted with such gusto for a long, long time.

Fans of the amateur theatre group won’t be surprised that the usual strong cast members were in full flow. Aron Armstrong, playing the Prince’s sidekick, Jacques, was his usual wonderfully comic self. Shaun Donald, who played Dame Dolly (and directed), was in his element and held the audience in the palm of his hand whenever he appeared on stage.

It was nice to see Todd Morgan, who played the narcissistic Jean-Claude, coming on well in his confidence. This role is his best yet and he was convincingly full of himself so lots of fun could be held at his expense. I increasingly think he’s one to watch for the future.

The surprise of the evening for me however, was Dave Flitcroft who played the Beast. This is not a name I’ve noticed before but I will now. He was superb. Frightening, powerful and yet, despite a mass of make-up, remarkably expressive. His eyes spoke almost as clearly as his deep booming voice. I, for one, really believed he was a monster.

If I have one gripe for the evening it has to be the sound. Forget the Beast and the evil Cruella, this was the real villain of the piece, forcing the actors to have to work hard for every song. I do hope the WTG managed to vanquish this foe for the rest of their performances. Pantomimes stand or fall by their comic timing and poor sound just crushes the efforts.

That gripe aside, the show was still hilarious – especially in the second half with Jean-Claude and Dame Dolly taking a slot which I can only describe as ‘raucous’ and which redefined audience participation. The children clearly loved every second.

Final mentions should go to the set design which was one of the best I’ve seen from the WTG for their pantos; and to Kayleigh Cullen who not only played the Prince but choreographed the dance routines. The dances were slick, polished and wonderfully in time – a credit to the dancers and Kayleigh.