Players’ perfect panto

BRANSCOMBE Players have made a triumphant return to the world of pantomime.

The village hall was packed to capacity on Saturday, for the second of a two-night run. Simple Simon is the first panto the group has produced in six years, a re-run of the story written 10 years ago by Paul Haines.

It is the tale of a royal pie competition, star-crossed lovers and hidden identities, directed by Jerry Holt.

The comforting mixture of local references, slapstick humour and colourful characters made it an energetic and vibrant performance.

Ghastly Gertie (Fiona Strange) was the comic cherry on the enjoyable cake – loud, brash and with an interesting fashion sense. Nick Smith as Crown Prince Simon, was her sweet, yet simple, hero.

That they had the whole audience singing about halitosis is testament to their powers of persuasion.

Nigel and Annette Freathy as Pieman and Sinister Susan camped up their villainous roles perfectly, plotting to win the competition with some rather grizzly ingredients. Particularly amusing was the banter between Pieman and Chookherd (Caroline Powell).

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Heather Eardley and Amanda Statham as Mary Davey and Reuben were well-matched as the main romance.

Strong singing voices belted out catchy and upbeat tunes, skilfully accompanied by a live trio. And the dancing chickens were a sight to behold.

One little boy had a high temperature and although he missed his part in act two, he insisted on coming on in act three and the finale.

All credit to the backstage crew, led by stage manager Ralph Cox, as the set and scenery were inventive and the costumes bright.

Paul, who took the role of Peter Gurney, said the cast were pleased with the response. “

We’d been dogged by illness all week, but managed to get through,” he said.

“We’re meeting on January 12 to discuss the 2011 programme, but I’ll be surprised if we don’t decide to do a panto.”