Waterside Musical Society Noadswood School, Dibden Purlieu Darren Funnell
16 February 2023
As the Hampshire Panto season draws to a close (probably!) it seems that Waterside Musical Society and NODA pantomimes has been saving one of the best to last. Some achievement given this is Waterside’s first Panto. They certainly appear to have had the budget to throw at it. An 8-piece orchestra, sophisticated lighting rig, and a production team that almost outnumbers the cast. This is a slick, glitzy, toe-tapping, funny first outing that wouldn’t be out of place in professional regional theatres. The Director, Wayne Reddin, has the spirit of Panto in his blood with a clear appreciation of what works. A constant patter of jokes, recognizable tunes you can sing-along to, abundant audience participation and the opportunity to take the audiences eye out with a projectile bon-bon.
I am not entirely sure who wrote it. Asides of ‘I didn’t write it’ to the tune of some groan inducing cat puns seemed to imply neither did the cast. We DO know the Musical Director was Christine Talbot, who did a cracking, tireless job across 19 musical numbers in this 2-hour show. Adapting the key for principals can be problematic, usually because the female key needs to be lowered in certain songs which means the men must go lower. Christine was up to the challenge. Inclusivity for all ages in musical societies is a key strength. Everyone gets a go. It is heart-warming to see all abilities being allowed to immerse themselves in Pantoland. More importantly, this allows the audience to visibly see how much the cast are enjoying playing their part. Well done all. Not least because there is some pacy, complicated choreography from Victoria Sarker that must have taken a lot of time and team effort to coordinate.
For those unfamiliar with ‘Puss in Boots’ it goes a bit like this. An Ogre is terrorizing a kingdom. The royal hierarchy can’t stop the ogre eating their townsfolk. Is there a hero, or some magic, that might prevent Princess Rene being ‘married’ off to the Ogre? Step in a magical cat in a pair of boots and wannabe hero sidekick Alf. How will it all end? Spoilers! Most likely with a comeuppance and a wedding. Sshh!
Every principal is splendid. Puss in Boots (Hannah Worlock) is a sparky, cheeky cat excellently pushing the narrative along when she is not belting out a tune. Alf (George Tate) plays comedic awkwardness to great effect. His on-stage physicality and timing made for a funny and charming foil. The pantomime dames (Anthony Morrison/Mike Pavitt) have a great line in sardonic wit and do a fabulous rendition of ‘Find Out What They Like…’ along with the jolly pairing of Arnie/Rambo (Katie Coultas/Lois Parr). The King and Queen (Wayne Reddin/Julie Gower) do a wonderful bumbling job of being completely incapable of wearing the crown. Beck Coultas plays the Ogre brilliantly. Less ‘I’m going to eat you up’, more a slouchy, louche ‘what the heck am I doing here and why do I have indigestion’. Princess ‘Rene’ is released from being just a damsel in distress by wittily garnering opinion on whether she should marry the Ogre as well as connecting cheerfully with Alf in their musical numbers. The Cat Warden (Christopher Wortley) may hate cats but is very catty, really ‘milking’ (now I’m doing it!) the opportunity to showcase his skills. Oh – and a quick shout out to Ogre/Lion (Victoria Sarker) who can indeed ‘Roar’.
Overall ‘Puss in Boots’ is punchy, top-notch fun bringing everything one expects from a Panto and tumbling it all together to glorious effect. All of Waterside/NODA should be very proud. The company do a tingling, beautiful version of ‘When you believe’ at the end of Act 1.
Don’t miss the opportunity to get down to Noadswood School, Dibden Purlieu for the evening performances from 16th -18th February at 7.30pm or the Matinee on the 18th at 2.30pm. You WILL believe. I did.