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Silchester Players - King Arthur - The Panto

21st, 22nd, 28th, 29th January 2005.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Under the thumb

Silchester Players: King Arthur A Pantomime Adventure in Camelot, at Silchester Village Hall, on Friday, January 21 and Saturday, January 22, Friday January 28 and Saturday, January 29

It may not be the King Arthur of romantic tradition, but Paul Reakes' pantomime adventure in Camelot (staged last week by Silchester Players) is a delightful tale with something for everyone.

Instead of the swashbuckling hero, Silchester's Arthur was a cheery but henpecked monarch, while his fair Guinevere had certainly seen better days!

Silchester Players are lucky to have a wealth of comic character actors, and John Coffin's Arthur contrasted excellently with Keith Graham's dame queen, dominating the stage throughout.

Arthur was attended by a suitably-imposing Merlin (Gary Belcher), adding a touch of magic in rhyming couplets, and a young but very confident Richard Oliver as the sword bearer. Bryan Gillet and Jo Nobbs as Squire Squirt and his long-suffering girlfriend Sally struck up an instant rapport with the audience as they were given the run-around by Smoulder the baby dragon (cutely performed by Sarah Stagg).

Thankfully Camelot hadn't lost all its noble warriors: Sir Lancelot (Sarah Oliver) was on-hand to defend the king's honour and woo the lovely Olivia (a strong performance from young Tori Treasure). In true panto style, Lancelot's credibility was almost dashed by Arthur's scheming cousin Morgana (a deliciously evil Jill Hutchins) and her incompetent son Mordred (a fine cameo from Alan Moorhouse).

Even director Kevin Belcher appeared on stage briefly, as Smoulder's fire-breathing mum, just in time to incinerate the villains and return Camelot to peace and harmony.

While some of the solo singing was a little quiet, Silchester Players put 100 per cent into their chorus numbers: there were plenty of smiles, a tuneful accompaniment by Stephen Oliver, and firm simple choreography from Trevor Dobson and Sarah Oliver.

The junior chorus items were particularly successful, with some hugely enthusiastic cheer-leaders supporting Sir Lancelot and a nicely staged ultra-violet scene in Morgana's castle (how did they get the dry ice to behave so well?).

With a colourful set and some great props - I loved the jousting knights on horseback - this was a truly memorable performance. Catch it on Friday and Saturday.