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KATS - Hercules The Panto

17th to 19th February 2005.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Cast of epic proportions

KATS: Hercules The Panto, at Kennet School, Thatcham, from Thursday, February 17 to Saturday, February 19

Hercules has completed his 12 tasks and Venus has set him his 13th - to win the hand of Princess Wanda, who has been kidnapped by the evil Cyclops.

This was the unlikely story line for the KATS latest production Hercules the Panto. More panto-ish than panto, it was nevertheless great fun and hugely entertaining from start to finish.

Director Clare Clark used her huge cast imaginatively, incorporating lots of good ideas and there were many memorable moments. The principals were strong and well-rehearsed and there was a polished, secure feel to the dialogue and lots of topical gags.

In the title role, Jon Lovell gave a good portrayal, swinging effectively from parody to sincerity, and Katie Haythornwaite as Princess Wanda successfully portrayed her character, first as spoilt and horrible then loveable.

Janet Killgallon-Brook made a confident and amusing Venus and the three Fates; Knit (Siouxsie Ashmore), Purl (Mandy Cole) and Drop One (Claire Helyer) almost stole the show with their excellent comedy/singing/dancing.

In their first roles with KATS, Ashley West as the camp Narcissus gave a terrific performance and created an extremely likeable character and David Richardson as Medusa made the very best of a rather thinly-written dame role. Andy Pocock gave good value as the King (in true Elvis style) and Tamsin Witt (another debut role) was delightful as the Gryphon; she worked well with the audience, despite a naughty element giving her the wrong responses!

A slick, narrating Greek-style chorus linked the action and for the singing/dancing chorus KATS are very lucky indeed to have choreographer Claire Helyer - the musical numbers were excellently staged and performed by the well-drilled principals, cheerleaders and the adult and junior chorus.

Music took the form of backing and midi tracks, which expanded the type of music typically used and added a really modern feel to the production. It was well done, but it lacked the edge and vibrancy of a live accompaniment. Scenery was a little lacklustre, but costumes were super, and technically this was an outstanding production with crisp sound, well-cued music and lighting and spectacular pyrotechnics.

With a cast of 70 this was a true community production, and as such achieved high standards, giving a happy audience excellent value and great entertainment.