BELLA BARTOCK ventured into the deep south of the borough for an unexpected delight in a local church hall
Yesterday afternoon saw the very first performance of The Three Musketeers pantomime at Sanderstead. There have been many a Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Dick Whittington down the years, but this year the Sanderstead Dramatic Club has taken a gamble on an original adaptation of the Alexander Dumas classic, with a script written by club member Andrew Nicholson.
There was, though, something a little less original to offer in an ‘Allo ‘Allo Englishman in French gendarme disguise, Tim Crump’s Duke of Buckingham character, mangling the French language with relish at every opportunity.
The gamble on new material and Katie Eynon’s directorial debut must be judged a success.
The sets in All Saints’ Parish Hall were sumptuous, whether in primary colours or in gentler shades, the lighting clever and the myriad of costumes a delight, especially those of the almost never-ending dress changer and pantomime dame John Shepherd as Fleur de Lis. There were more outfits on show than Eddie Izzard has paraded down Surrey Street.
You cannot believe that there is that much of a back stage in the church hall to cope with such a grandly staged panto. The sword fighting choreography was likely not as easy nor as safe as it looked. With a competent four-piece band to provide the music, too, this was a production that pays credit to Enyon’s team behind the scene.
The performance was bolstered by bringing in New Addington’s Dance with Grace troupe of young dancers, who coped well with the restricted stage size. Although only young, they gave the amateur show a professional-style assurance.
There were some modern references to X Boxes and DVD players (not sure that the latter are that modern these days), but you could think that this was a traditional church hall panto from the 1950s, when the Sanderstead Dramatic Club’s fortunes were at their zenith. Formed 1907, this is their 77th annual panto. Except for the war years, the club has been entertaining the local community every year since 1932.
This year’s offering has all the traditional panto elements. There are gorgeous baddies including a marvellously imperious David Apps as Cardinal Richelieu and a studiedly snivelling Darren Giles as Roquefort. All the “he’s behind you” and “yes he did”, “Oh no he didn’t” barracking opportunities are there right on cue, too.
Indeed, if you want to go for a fully participative event for younger children, then this is for you. Shepherd, a Sanderstead club stalwart, was a consummate dame who kept the youngsters fully engaged. Hazel Istead gave a strong and constant performance as Constance to keep the panto structure robust and the story moving on.
Be prepared for leg room, sorry, knee room, that makes package tour air plane economy seats look luxurious. The show might also be better with a little bit of paring back, but almost all the children in the audience managed to keep up their interest to the end of what was on “first night” a 135-minute long show. Which only goes to prove that Sanderstead’s children have longer attention spans than our football-watching local councillors. Oh yes they do…
- The Three Musketeers runs every night to Saturday January 16, with matinee performances in addition at the weekend. To book tickets, click here: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/sandersteaddramatic
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