Thespians bring panto perfection to Haslemere

Friday 21st January 2022 10:52 am
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‘PANTO’S back!’ declares the opening showpiece tune in Haslemere Thespians’ fun-packed Jack and the Beanstalk, and with just three performances to go today (Friday) and tomorrow (Saturday), this is a show not to be missed.

Life has got a bit serious over the past two years. Although it seems the pantomime at Number 10 continued unabated last winter, the altogether more-sensible Thespians’ show did not, marking the first cancellation in the company’s long history.

But having seen its 2021 production of Jack’ succumb to the pandemic, and a full 15 months after casting the show, the Thespians returned with a bang last Friday – offering a much-needed shot of supreme silliness to counter the January gloom.

Jack and the Beanstalk, directed by Sally Waghorn, has everything you could want from a panto. Groan-a-minute gags (including a few that will need explaining to the children!), slapstick, sing-a-long pop songs accompanied by a live band, loads of audience participation, an unlikely romance between our poor protagonist and a princess, dastardly villains (boo, hiss!) and the obligatory Buttercup the cow (Kim Seymour up front, Debbie Impiazzi at the rear).

First on the stage, the wicked witch Piccalilli (played with panache by Linnet Bird) bristles with wickedness – and has perhaps the stand-out costume of the night, flickering with malice as she spars with Anna Webb’s Fairy Sugardust.

And then it’s off to the village of Windy Bottom to meet our thigh-slapping hero of the act, Jack, played by the Thespians’ long-standing principal boy, Gemma Bowles.

“With a touch of panto magic, we are back again,” sings Jack, before we are introduced to his “silly brother” Simple Simon – played in show-stealing fashion by the wonderful Naomi Robertson, fresh from her equally stand-out performance in the title role of Nell Gwynn.

Dame Dotty Dimple, played by Tony Creasey who worked in the West End in his younger years (with the Metropolitan Police!) tugs at the heart strings: “My other half fell into a vat of coffee and drowned – thankfully, it was instant.”

Adrian Stent puts in another show-stealing, and back-breaking, performance as the crooked bean salesman Rancid the Ratman. And debt collectors Scarper (Rob Lloyd) and Snatchet (Mike Byrne) bring bucket-loads of cockney wit and slapstick to the stage – much to the delight of the young audience.

Plenty of show-piece tunes, audience participation and set-piece gags follow, with the beanstalk – “somebody call Waverley and tell them to pull down this monstrosity” – and the imposing Giant Buster Gut-Bucket (played by Eric Collins) enter in the second act, before the curtain finally falls on a triumphant return for Haslemere Thespians’ panto superstars.

My four-year-old asks if she can have a panto-themed birthday party on our way to the car park. I’m playing the dame, my wife tells me...

For tickets, priced from £8 each, see www.haslemerehall.co.uk

Daniel Gee

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