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Silchester Players - Robinson Crusoe and the Pirates

28th to 29th January and 4th to 5th February 2011.

From Chris Horton.

Most of us know that Robinson Crusoe was stranded on a desert island and his only companion was Man Friday. But do we know how he got there and why Man Friday is so called? These questions and many more were answered at Silchester Village Hall last weekend when Silchester Players performed their panto: Robinson Crusoe and the Pirates written by Paul Reakes.

This was a jolly show with plenty of impressive qualities and all the usual panto regulars – goodies, baddies, dame, humour, songs and the inevitable happy ending.

Our swash-buckling adventure began on the quayside at Bobbin-in-the-Briny and we met an assortment of characters. Roy Glancey and Kevin Belcher were in fine form as the baddies Patch and Blackbeard. The latter had a blast being the bad tempered Blackbeard complete with black eyeliner and wig. Robinson Crusoe was played by Laura Whiteway with thigh slapping panache and her love interest – Polly Perkins – we later discovered was one of the good pirates “Crimson Hawk”. But before we got to the happy ending we had to find the treasure, enjoy singing (to ward off the sharks) and watch the spectacle of our heroes and heroines being chased by Islanders – and a splendid Medicine Man in the guise of John Coffin. Also involved in the chase were Mandy Larby as a delightful Gorilla and Tony Oliver as Ma Crusoe. Tony clearly relished the opportunity to display a gorgeous array of costumes! There were many notable performances including Rachel Solomons who was energetic and enthusiastic as Bessie Bowsprit, Robbie Nicholson (as Willy Crusoe) her rather shy beau and brother of Robinson and Janice Garrard as Queen Neptune. The sets for Silchester productions are always of the highest quality but for this panto they were outstanding, largely due to the artwork produced by Kevin Belcher, particularly in the underwater and island scenes.

There were plenty of local references to Tadley, Aldermaston, Tesco and Sainsbury’s and the audience were sent home grinning.


Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Silchester hoists their very Jolly Roger

Silchester Players: Robinson Crusoe and The Pirates, at Silchester Village Hall, on Friday, January 28, Saturday, January 29, Friday, February 4 and Saturday, February 5

There was more than a little swashbuckling going on in Silchester Players' pantomime production of Robinson Crusoe and the Pirates last week.

Paul Reakes' lively script offered a different interpretation of the popular tale, with good and bad pirates battling to find the treasure buried on a desert island.

The Players clearly enjoyed performing the show and, despite a few opening night nerves and pauses in the early scenes, their infectious enthusiasm soon had the audience responding with cheers and hisses at the appropriate times.

The dame Ma Crusoe, played by Tony Oliver, led the comic mayhem with great confidence, while Kevin Belcher's pirate Blackbeard was cheerily evil as he plotted with his incompetent sidekick Patch (Roy Glancey) to reach the Crusoe treasure.

There were some particularly strong performances from the younger leads. Laura Whiteway as Robinson commanded the stage with great style, while Eloise Morris showed impressive versatility as she switched between the demure Polly Perkins and... well, I won't reveal the second role in case you haven't seen the panto yet.

The comic duo of Robinson's not-too-bright brother Willy and his freckled girlfriend Bessie was very well acted by Robbie Nicholson and Rachel Solomons (the scene where the young lovers agree to follow the Crimson Hawk was particularly good).

Other characters included a nice cameo from Janice Garrard as the sneezy Queen Neptune, Harry Stamp's Man Friday with his power handshake, John Coffin's fierce medicine man, and a very expressive gorilla (Mandy Larby) who falls for Ma Crusoe.

There were some enjoyable musical items, particularly In the Navy from the senior chorus (choreography by Trevor Dobson) and a delightful King of the Swingers piece from the juniors (choreographed by Laura Whiteway), all set against Kevin Belcher's excellent stage designs (the Idol of Boogar set was particularly impressive).

Director Keith Graham and producer Sarah Oliver had clearly worked very hard to bring the humour and comic touches right up to date, while Stephen Oliver kept the music flowing from the keyboard.