Once Upon a Time
Once upon a time in a land far, far away (or the school hall in Helmdon as it is more commonly known) a group of intrepid performers put on a Pantomime so evil, so wicked that even the evilest, wickedest witch might have been scared to be there! Would the sweet princess escape death? Would the handsome prince come to the rescue? Oh yes they would!
The Bridge Players Christmas Panto 2015 was a tale of good and evil and a mash-up of several old favourites including Cinderella, Snow White and Alice in Wonderland. "Once Upon a Time", a play by Paul Barron and Sarah Dyson, was directed by Sarah Adhemar. The story is set in Pantoland where a marriage between Cinderella's daughter, Princess Lottie (Rosie Gee) and Snow White's son, Prince Marvellous (Oscar Davies) will rid Pantoland of evil forever.
At the annual meeting of the Immoral, Disgusting, Indescribably 'Orrible and Troublesome Society (or IDIOTS for short) (any resemblance to meetings of Helmdon Parish Council is entirely intentional) the wicked queen, Evelyn (Bryony Worthy) tells everyone about the planned marriage and says that if it goes ahead then an ancient prophecy will come true and all IDIOTS will be banished from Pantoland forever! The wedding must be prevented from ever happening and Evelyn promises to make Cinderella and Snow White regret the day they ever crossed the IDIOTS! (Boo! Hiss!).
Evelyn transports the princess and her two hapless attendants, Nick and Nack (Becky Leitelmayer and Felicity Dyndor) to the furthest reaches of Pantoland. Prince Marvellous must try to find her so he elicits the help of his friend Jack (Beth Gordon) and the cook, Gertie (Dave Bridger) and the trio embark on a long journey.
Will the prince and princess ever be reunited? As they search for each other they meet all the classic characters along the way: the seven dwarves, Alice (Jasmine Bailey), the Mad Hatter (Paul Underwood) and March Hare (Zoe Dyndor), Red Riding Hood (Francesca Fieldhouse) and the Wolf (Joseph Worthy) and, of course, Captain Hook (John Plunkett).
Nick & Nack entertaining Princess Lottie - and everyone else!
The couple do eventually find each other but it looks like Evelyn will have the last laugh as no one can escape the power of her wand and its Medusa spell. However, Lottie remembers (with a little help from the audience!) that on her travels the dwarves gave her a shiny diamond, the shiniest most polished diamond they'd ever found that would reflect absolutely anything, and she uses it to turn Evelyn's spell back on herself making her scream and die a terrible, horrible death!
At last Princess Lottie and Prince Marvellous can be together much to the delight of both sets of parents, Cinderella (Morag Underwood) and Prince Charming I (Paul Underwood), and Snow White (Zoe Dyndor) and Prince Charming II (Huw Davies).
Evil has been defeated and good has triumphed! Who knew it would turn out that way and that everyone (except evil Evelyn!) would live happily ever after?!
The undoubted stars of the show were Rosie Gee and Oscar Davies who both had lots of lines, solo songs and a duet. The Bridge Players will continue for years with such good talent coming through the ranks. Paul Underwood and Huw Davies were hilarious as the two drunk Prince Charmings; a performance that looked like it had been rehearsed over and over at the Bell (purely for the sake of method acting of course!). Becky Leitelmayer and Felicity Dyndor as Nick and Nack were equally hilarious, but in contrast their performance didn't look like it had been rehearsed at all!! Nick's comic timing, Nack's facial expressions, and the pair's audience participation antics often had everyone in stitches! And then of course there's Dave Bridger as Gertie, the cook. Christmas just wouldn't be the same without having seen Dave Bridger in a dress. Poor old Jack and Prince Marvellous playing opposite him; there's nothing straight about those three – not even their faces!
The main cast were ably supported by not one, but two dance troops: The dwarves were Freya Elkington, Lauren Newlands, Harry Gee, Holly Vincent, Jacob Davies, Leah Wilson and Joshua Newlands. The pirates were Ruby Sheppard, Laraugh Smith, Meri Wheeler and Harvey England.
Live music was provided by John Plunkett, Andrew Hart, Alan Holmes and George Highton and there were a host of back-stage staff ensuring that everything went smoothly for each of the four performances. There's a complete list of all involved in the Panto Programme (click on link to Programme below).
Going to the Bridge Players' Panto is easy; just rock up, be entertained for a couple of hours, then go to the pub. But for the performers, costume designers, lighting and sound technicians, makeup artists, prompters, prop designers, front of house team and, of course, not forgetting the director, the Panto represents months of hard work and rehearsal. Was it all worth it? Oh yes it was! And at least now, once again… IT'S BEHIND YOU!!
Report & photos - Danny Moody