THE 2011/12 panto season has now come to an end, and as they do every year it was up to the Emergency Services to bring the curtain down on another few months of sequins and high jinx in Berwick.
We’ve had Little Wolf’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’, Spittal Variety Group’s ‘Dick Whittington’ and last week the spirited volunteers of services on both sides of the Border also took a certain Mr Whittington as their main inspiration last week but took things in a completely different direction.
Yes we still had Dick’s obligatory showmance with young Alice Fitzwarren; his faithful cat Tom and a voyage on the high seas but there was no King Rat (in his place three less sinister rodents), a female pirate captain and a cross dressing dad.
Things were given a distinct nautical feel right from the outset of ‘Dick’s All At Sea’ thanks to a few shanties from local act Below The Salt. Most pantomimes’ soundtracks consists of either music played by a small orchestra or backing tracks so to go against the grain was a bold decision for the Emergency Services to make but one which really added to the atmosphere.
And as well as providing a musical backdrop, Below The Salt also penned a few numbers for ‘Dick’s All At Sea’, the first being ‘Professional Pirates’ which introduced the audience to Captain Henrietta and her band of scurvy dogs.
She might not have resembled a Captain Hook or Jack Sparrow in the looks department but taking on the role, Susan Wagstaff certainly had plenty seadog spirit and would have a few timbers shivered for sure!
Second in command was Rense Bell as Bosun Bates. Like many of his cast mates, Rense has taken on a plethora of panto personas over the years- the lead in Barry Blotter and the Bedpan of Secrets to name just one- and once again he put in an enthusiastic and assured performance.
The same could be said for all the pirate posse- Stella McLaren, Rose Mordy, Hannah Park, Malcom Mace and Mike Ross- and Eddie Barrowman as the show’s title character.
Although he had a natural accent that would be more suited to the gold paved streets of London rather than Berwick where the action took place, Eddie was a great leading man and his leading lady Estelle Dodd was up there with him, with great comic timing.
The two duetted on the touching ‘There’s Got To Be Something Better’ which gave the humour packed two hours one of its lighter moments.
Another one arrived courtesy of the Emergency Services own Rat Pack, namely Rodney (Jacqui Hedges), Robbie (Aimee Coogan) and Ronnie (Anna Tucker) and their feather boa-clad rendition of ‘Mack The Knife’, re-named ‘Cat The Knife’. And the feline in question? Dick’s cat Tom aka Anthea Drysdale, who like her rodent enemies certainly made friends of the audience.
Like in previous years, the Emergency Services’ played the humour card heavily and it won the game again for them.
As a pair of shoppers and latterly The Sultana of Lindisfarne and her Wazir, Chris Mutch and Julie Dudgeon double act with plenty of unassuming innunendo.
And speaking of innuendo, one character who came with a large helping was Roger, a role that on the evidence of last week, Ben Foreman was born to play. Decked out in sailor garb and with a camp American twang, Ben was one of the stars of the show. If ever the Village People reform and are in need of a sailor, Ben’s Roger would fit the bill perfectly and I’m sure his superior, Captain Cutlass (Alex Robertson) would champion him all the way!
As with every self-respecting panto, camp capers were the order of the day and more were served up by Frank Barker as Alderman Fitzwarren. Normally a well-respected shop owner and pillar of the Berwick community, the Alderman was forced to get in touch with his feminine side for a voyage on the high seas and looked well at home in a dress and wig ensemble which would send Shirley Bassey and Jane McDonald into a raging cat fight.
Yes there were a few cues missed and a few lines forgotten along the way but it all added to the unpredictable, chaotic charm Emergency Service pantos have become known and loved for.
Closing numbers ‘Back Home in Berwick’ and ‘Getting to Know You’ saw Below The Salt back in fine form again, and special mention to their singer Carol Robson who stepped away from the mic not only to be the show’s musical director but also to take on the guise of Zandra the gypsy.
Wonder if her crystal ball predicted another fun-packed romp from the Emergency Services? As that’s exactly what they delivered.