Lyndhurst Drama & Musical Society     Vernon Theatre, Lyndhurst Darren Funnell     

 29 January 2023

I love Panto season. Adults can be childish again. Children can be children. Reviewers can have fun.

I went into the Lyndhurst Panto not knowing anything about the plot. We all know Cinders WILL go to the ball and that Snow White should have developed Malusdomesticaphobia (ok, I had to look that up!). Here we have the titular talking dog Flute helping his Toymaker master battle Baron von Blitzen’s world of no toys and no happiness to get the girl – Princess Vashmi. Along the way he is helped by an assortment of toys, rabbits, prisoners – well, you name it.

I can imagine the writers Richard Barnett, Terry Hammond and Marc Mordey having a blast around their old word processor conjuring up this charming script. Sometimes pantos lose some of their innocence by trying to give ‘wink-wink’ references to more adult themes. Whilst there are a few political throwaway asides, the directors Richard Barnett and Peter Dawson decide to go all out for innocent silliness and daft set pieces that will appeal most to families and younger children. Of course, the only real review of a Panto is the look in the eyes of the target audience. And they were ‘eyes front, smiles out’ for the duration.

The other thing about local Panto is that is a great leveller. Often Panto is the best and first opportunity for all ages to get a turn on the stage. And that is true here. A lovely ensemble, all working together to jolly along the plot and entertain. A great safe space to ‘give it a go’. Even this old reviewer Baron’s heart went a bit ‘awww’ seeing the younger members of the cast in ‘awe’ at finding themselves part of the story and in the spotlight for the first time. Well done!

Well, I suppose I must call out some of the cast, although everyone was lovely (oh yes you do, oh no you don’t). Jack Barnett, as Flute, does a great line in belly rubs and comedy ankle biting. Who doesn’t love a hound round these parts? Vic Milne as Baron Von Blitzen drips cartoon villainy and has some jolly cane work during a number where he appears to do a rap! Whatever it was, it was jolly entertaining. William Cooper (Danny) has a lot to do in the first half to show Gaston-like heroics. Noble and true. Shana Cooper (Princess Vashmi) radiates beauty and sophistication. The twist in the traditional love duet is a hysterical and handled well. The Scumdums (Di Buck and Michele Arkle) are a daft double-act in the best tradition. Gladys (Stevie Parker) keeps the action moving and will always be forever blowing bubbles (oh for volume control!)

Much of the rest of the comedy centres around the Prisoners/ Toys / Vicar played by Sally Condra, Hannah Marks, Charlotte Dawson, Callie Van Der Pauw and Shawn Condra. They deliver some Panto groan-inducing gags and set pieces with knowing effect. It did make me laugh when Richard Barnett (Sergeant of the Guard) said of the Vicar (paraphrase) “he’s the only one we’ve got”.

So, of course, in good Panto tradition, after battles with some underground creatures I think are called Zuds, the day is saved, the toys can be toys again, redemption for the Baron and love wins out. Long may it ever be thus.

This is great fun. Daft as a brush, but it was all very enjoyable. The cast and production team did a cracking job pulling it all together for our entertainment. The good news is that you can still catch this production on Saturday 4 February at 6pm and Sunday 5 February at 2.30pm. I recommend you pop along. Have some family time again. See the look in their eyes.