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Thatcham Parish Hall.

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Reviews of Ali's Barbers and the Fawlty Sleeves

20th to 22nd February 2020

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

KATS make the cut

KATS: Ali’s Barbers and the Fawlty Sleeves, at Kennet School, Thatcham, from Thursday, February 20, to Saturday, February 22

Not so much Ali Barber the Arabic hero but more Ali’s barber shop as one of the settings for this new panto by John Hicks about an evil landowner planning to close him down, build a shopping centre and put up a parking lot. Cue the song and a section of the cast tore into Joni Mitchell’s hit Big Yellow Taxi. This was about resistance by the small shopkeepers. Ali and the Tailor’s shop owned by Brian Fawlty against the wicked Lady Fortunata, a character of evil intent, played up joyfully by Pam Hicks.

Jenny Woolf was a quiet, friendly and unassuming Bella just taking over her Uncle Ali’s shop and. of course, being panto, we had to have a Dame. Craig Robinson fitted the bill very well, bumping and grinding his way through songs and coming out with lines like ‘my name is Fatima, not fat Emma’. Then there was Mark, with Joe Rollinson playing the romantic lead beside Bella. We had Andrew J Smith as Brian Fawlty, tormenting Gary Brown as Miguel and any resemblance between them and Basil Fawlty and Manuel was purely intentional. Taking it a few strides further, they even had a rat and hamster routine where Miguel had first a cat in a box, then a tiger – both of which he was convinced were hamsters – and finally, an elephant (well I did say it was panto).

We also had a sort of reverse drag act with Mandy Cole and Janet Kilgallon-Brook hamming it up as a couple of male rogues, working for Lady Fortunate. The chorus worked and sang well, even if movement was a little shaky at times.

There were good performances from Emma Low, Jamie Wood, Freya Hughes and others in a large cast. The sets and costumes were impressive. The final Voice Factor’s Got Talent show was well-lit and spectacular.

Overall, it was a well-performed, smoothly directed show, original and over the top at times (hut that’s what panto is all about, isn’t it?). Full marks to those KATS – and hamsters – for another lively and successful show.


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