Squire Sid - Sidbury pantomime review

Sophie James as Kate and Fay Chinery as Squire Sid

Sophie James as Kate and Fay Chinery as Squire Sid - Credit: Archant

You’ve got to believe in fairies. Tradition is the essence of panto. The trick is to graft originality on to the traditional form. Review by Robert Crick.

Tradition is the essence of panto. The trick is to graft originality onto the traditional form. SID (Sidbury Into Drama) has achieved this trick every two years ‘from time immemorial’ and their sell-out Squire Sid maintained this tradition in 2014, writes Robert Crick.

Marion Clarksom’s original script starts with a traditional chorus of villagers, played by Sidbury WI members Sue Gooding, Pam Ward, Ann Jones, Jacqui Gates, Katie Gilbert, Abi Pearse and Yvonne Harland.

They kick-start the plot with the news the squire has gambled away all his money and has to sell his ancestral home and estate, putting the whole village of Sidbury at risk. This has to be pointed political satire, surely.

In one magic moment the financial crisis is solved by a crock of gold delivered by one of this panto’s two dames, the terminally deteriorating fairy Dotty, ironically camped by David Maltby.

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And so, as the useless old squire (John Rush) is magically displaced by the statuesquely handsome principal boy Sid the milkman, we seem to have reached the traditional happy ending - far too early in the evening, surely?

For panto to work its traditional magic a lovely young fairy is needed.

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A further magnificent seven members of the WI (Monica Hennessy, Hazel Hallett, Mary Dowell, Una Harrington, Candy Robinson and Gwenan Paewai) formed the multi-coloured troupe of “Tired Old Fairies” supporting Dotty.

Brilliantly choreographed by Jane Jarrell they pirouetted and twirled.

But magic was not required for a subversive twist on the rags to riches tradition.

In accordance with the rules of dialectical materialism, our hero gets the gold, the hall and the estate but loses the girl.

Faye Chinery, as Sid, revealed the divisive effects of wealth and status, alienated from the villagers and neglecting his beloved Kate (Sophie James).

The real magic of the evening came of course from the village children (Kye Jardine, Amelie Farrand, Maisie Lyon, Eve Chinery, Evie Rowe and Lilly Maynard) whose ensemble singing uplifted the characters and audience.

Fortunately Sid’s villainy is only skin deep compared to that of Bonnie and Clyde, who demonstrate the darkest depths of dastardly duplicity.

What, apart from their gruesome costumes, malevolent looks, and inept plans, could such traditional villains do to keep the audience entertained?

Are they not one-dimensional?

Oh no they’re not!

The polished stagecraft of Chelsea Cross and Sheila Lewis enriched the portrayal of these villains with subtle ‘business’ and masterly timing.

The traditions of slapstick comedy were supremely in evidence each time the most absurd policemen in the Devon and Cornwall force, Ben and Jerry (Tom Woodruff and James Pearse) chased through the theatre with gusto and inspired ridiculousness.

When at last they arrest the real villains, Sid learns the true value of village life and Kate forgives him for his arrogance.

A lovely duet from Faye Chinery and Sophie James paved the way for the traditional ending.

Maggie Knights’ tight, fast-moving direction dispensed with the tradition of competitive community singing, but this was more than compensated for by Jacob Sladder, played by the irrepressible and uniquely traditional Michael Coles, whose superbly awesome rendition of apparently interminable verses of “Jake the Peg (with the extra leg)” guaranteed audience participation, if only in a united desperate attempt to keep to the tune.

The high professional quality of the musical accompaniment from Lynden Webb and David Clements was, in accordance with SID tradition, only matched by the “back stage” team who unobtrusively treated us to a wide variety of flexible sets, lighting, sound and costumes.

Faye Chinery met the challenge of carrying the story with clarity and aplomb in the face of anarchic disruptions by Paul White, as Sid’s mother Delilah. Most of the audience felt that this bosom-hoisting Les Dawson-style dame stole the show – which is of course another SID tradition. Since ribaldry is always most entertaining in the context of refinement, John Loveridge, as the snooty butler Pennington Point, showing supreme disdain for his arriviste new employers., was an excellent foil to enhance our delight at Delilah’s enthusing lewdly about the potential of an “en suite” while slurping back the cocktails.

The wit in Delilah’s scripted and frequently unscripted lines - and frequent hilarious failures to deliver the right cue - or any cue at all - in the midst of quite startling ad libs and Paul White’s outrageous upstaging antics both on and off the stage, did not prevent the rest of the ensemble from maintaining their roles and reasonably straight faces, while advancing the plot, leaving not a dry seat in the house.

Was this a traditional panto?

O yes it was.

And was it original?

By all accounts each and every one of the four performances this year was unique!

Book now for 2016.

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