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KATS - Arabian Nights the Panto!

15th to 17th February 2007.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Full of Eastern promise

KATS: Arabian Nights - The Panto, at Kennet School, from Thursday, February 15, to Saturday, February 17

Pantomime storylines come in many forms and Arabian Knights, presented by Kennet Amateur Theatrical Society (KATS) last week was a new one to me but, crammed with colourful characters, loads of topical references and given the KATS' spectacular treatment, it was a treat for adults and children alike.

With a terrific principal cast, strong chorus and super dancers, it was non-stop entertainment. We were whisked backwards and forwards from the swampy old turnip patch that was Thatcham, where we found Dame Dollop (a robust and engaging portrayal from Andy Pocock) to the exotic East, with its evil dictator Saladin, played in fine devilish style by Mike Cole, who had an excellent rapport with the audience.

Siouxsie Ashmore made a confident and dashing Hasan the Bandit and Claire Bowden was first class in all respects as the gutsy Tommy/Thomasina. Interacting well, Dumb and Dumber style, were Dave Richard (Oshgosh) and Mark Lillycrop (Babu), and also contributing excellent comedy were Dave Marsh as the eunuch, Ibn Dun (think about it) - Bob Cole the spaced-out Ali-Kat and John Hicks (Onion Bhaji). Completing the strong principal line up were Mandy Cole, menacing as The Evil Yasemin, Jon Lovell as the genie Al Kazelzah, Fiona Brambury as Brat and Jeff Brooks as storyteller Haroun.

The hallmark of this production, under the direction of Kevin Miller, was excellent production values; well rehearsed and delivered dialogue, cracking choreography (Claire Bowden, adults, and Jon Lovell, children). Together with these were slick scenery changes, sound effects and lighting, tricks and spectacular pyrotechnics, all adding up to quality theatre.

If I had any reservations, they were the slightly over wordy script, and another I have mentioned before (sorry), is the use of backing tracks. Perhaps it's just me, but the vocal numbers don't work as well as they might (particularly when they contain pre-recorded vocal backing). That said, the opening dance number of act two was stunning in all respects, and scene linking music was very effective.

In any case, I am sure the audience will have gone away thinking they had got really good value and will look forward to the next extravaganza.