Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Aladdin and his crew hit the sticks in Derbyshire!

"Just a few lines to say a MASSIVE "Thank You Very Much" for the 
BRILLIANT panto last night.
Everyone REALLY enjoyed it and we are full of admiration for your 
excellent and talented actors. How hard they worked with setting up, 
acting, singing, dancing and all the costume changes.
Please give our grateful thanks to everyone involved. 
How lovely it was to have a happy, family production with no swearing
and dreadful innuendos.
WELL DONE!!" – Linda, Community Centre Member



Cast of Aladdin and the Meanie Genie with fans
(L-R) Catherine Lakenby, Kirsteen Riddell, Rowen Cameron, Lee Farrell, James McCready
That's quite a review! Me? I'm relieved and delighted that the audience at my local community centre seemed to enjoy Act One Production's latest family panto: "Aladdin and the Meanie Genie".

Relieved? Well, as the writer of the original script, I do feel partly responsible for the end result. It's also nice to get some credit - though truth be known, Jule (our artistic director) penned a few gems herself before including our technical director and tour manager Nathan Turtle in the process. Jule has to keep on the right side of Nathan. He's the one who creates the magical special effects.  

In fact, as soon as the script was completed in March 2014, Nathan began working on the sound, lighting, scenery, music…..the lot! It's one thing for airy-fairy writers and imaginative directors to come up with gigglesome gags, bits of business and  mind-boggling stunts, but Nathan’s the person who makes things WORK! Fortunately, he's a Maestro, totally dedicated to his task, despite being an entertainer in his own right. Poor chap hadn't had any time off since March and was looking forward to just a couple of days before it all kicks in again for 2015! 

Jule's no slouch either. As a theatre director she is certainly inventive, wildly creative and occasionally off-the-wall. The rest of us merely run UP it - especially when she insists on not just one but THREE elephants, a talking Dandelion,  and the now ubiquitous donkey! Arrrgggghhhhh! Yet somehow, it all comes together.

Another gift Jule possesses - talent-spotting. Auditions can be fraught with actors' schedules and tricky travelling arrangements (after a disastrous 'virtually' casting session last year, Skype is no longer an option except in extreme circumstances). Yet, every year, Jule finds just the right people....usually young, enthusiastic and brimming with bravado. Well, they have to be brave with some of the stunts they’re given to do! They also have to be in-tune with Jule's vision, and each actor is encouraged to bring their own ideas to the pot, so every production is a joint venture.

The cast and crew (i.e. Nathan) for Aladdin were amazing. (I'm using the past tense as, by the time this blog appears, they'll have completed the tour and gone their separate ways....hopefully towards other excellent roles in the future). To my mind, panto is perfect training for actors, demanding physical skills, mental dexterity, the ability to improvise and perfect timing. The five professionals chosen for Aladdin were excellent singers too.

Aladdin is the first panto to be stage in my own neighbourhood....and Derbyshire folk are not the easiest audiences to please. Fortunately, after a brief jollying-along by Nathan, my fellow citizens and their tots got into the swing of things, the only glitch being when the Dame stuck a sink-plunger on a man's head. Although the guy himself didn’t seem to mind, his protective pre-school daughter objected in NOOOO uncertain terms! 

For me, the highlight was a marionette scene when Ebanazer pulled invisible strings to make the beautiful Princess Jasmine dance! Inspired!

My young friend Tyra (aged 10) and her grandma were equally impressed, especially on learning that the amazing flow of characters were played by just FIVE people - a technical feat in itself!

And everybody clapped! Phew! Thanks to Nathan's wizardry and the cast's terrific performances, I can really hold my head up in the village!

Thank you Act One Productions. I'm SOOOOO proud of you!

Contact: Jule Watson at Act One Productions


Artistic Director: Jule Watson
Technical & Tour Director: Nathan Turtle
Cast: James McCready, Kirsteen Riddell, Rowen Cameron, Lee Farrell, Catherine Lakenby