Swanage Drama Company  The Mowlem Theatre, Swanage Steve O’Neill 12 January 2024

As we took our seats in the packed Mowlem Theatre there was an air of excitement and anticipation. Everyone, young and old it seems, was ready for some booing and cheering and a rollicking good night out. We were not to be disappointed!

The curtains opened on a stunning, beautifully lit set, and a huge cast. Oh, what a joy to see such a large cast and chorus during times when it seems some companies can barely cast anything. And although everyone was singing their best and making a pretty good job of the great choreography that Victoria Jones had created, I have to say my attention was taken up by a very tiny tot, Hunter Earl, who was giving it everything, even though he was much smaller than everyone else.

We were soon introduced to an effervescent and lovable Buttons, played with great joy by Anthony Ayles. He was quickly followed by the Ugly Sisters. Played by David Wellstead-Arnold and James Chelton, these two really were the epitome of these characters. Larger than life with fabulous costumes and even larger hair, they lit up the show and the audience. Their rendition of ‘Born This Way’ was simply sensational. They always had an ear to the audience and were able to come back with some brilliant and spontaneous ad-lib, a trait that was also shared by Baron Hardup – Tom Eastcott-Jones – and their mother, Baroness Hardup – Ro Smith. Speaking of whom, she was the most deliciously evil, wicked stepmother. I loved her.

With pantomime it’s always handy to have some people who can at least hold a tune. Swanage Drama Company is blessed to have some very fine singers. There were outstanding performances from Fairy Godmother, Cinderella and Prince Charming, played by Laura Jolly, Holly Gate and Hannah Chelton respectively.

It was a joyous couple of hours spent in Swanage this evening and for that I thank the company.

There were a few points that didn’t help the show. The volume of the backing tracks overpowered the chorus to such an extent that, from row L, we had to really concentrate to hear them at all. Also, there were a number of times when people had microphones but there was such a huge disparity between the mic’d and non-mic’d sound it really was quite off putting. The person who suffered most from this was Fairy Godmother who, unmic’d, was barely audible and mic’d rang out loud and clear.

A small point in an otherwise fabulous show.

Do yourselves a favour and cheer yourselves up on these cold winter’s days with a visit to the Mowlem Theatre in Swanage.

The show runs until 20th January.