REVIEW: A fast-paced and heart-warming Burgess Hill panto

Puss in Boots, Burgess Hill Theatre Club, Martlets Hall, Jan 20, 21,22,27,28

Puss In Boots SUS-170901-165507003 SUS-170901-165507003
Puss In Boots SUS-170901-165507003 SUS-170901-165507003

The witches threaten to steal the thunder as they cast a strong spell over this fine pantomime.

An odious and ominous-looking trio of Megan Roberts (Scraggy), Vicky Gooding (Naggy) and Gill Roberts (Haggy) reek of evil.

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Along with flame-haired “baddy” Warlock Don Stewart they positively invite themselves to be hissed.

Dale Smith looks every inch a princess to be kissed, and Sophie Jones is not to be missed as she milks every ounce of charm as Puss in Boots. Steph Somerville is too beautiful to be mistaken for Principal Boy or any other, but she makes the Jack role her own.

Ninety minutes might seem long for a first half (the second is 70) but few kids will fidget because director and choreographer Suzi Allen holds their fascination with a fast-paced show.

The young dancers, from the club and from Drusilla Duffill Theatre School, add innocence and vitality with some engaging routines, and the sets are impressively involving.

Great Dame David Abbott, as Queen Anastasia, dominates the stage on his return with his quick wit, magnetic personality and delightfully dreadful dress sense. It is hard to tell the gaffs from set gags as he bounces jokes off the crowd-pleasing Matt Roberts as clowning Simple Simon and Chris Smith as a marvellously crusty King.

This heart-warming and embracing show would be a terrific way to bow out at the hall if 2018 proves to be the year it is closed to make way for redevelopment.

But there is an element of “Oh yes it is. Oh no it isn’t” because the grapevine hints January 2018 might arrive with the hall still being available for at least one more shout.

This would not resolve the crucial issue of where the club could eventually stage future pantomimes or other larger productions, because it seems there is nowhere suitable, with a fixed stage, storage during shows, and reasonable capacity.

A new hall, perhaps a converted building, usable for concerts and other attractions, is the answer, in my opinion, if Burgess Hill is not to become a cultural wasteland as its population increases with thousands of extra homes.

Meanwhile though, the town can celebrate a show in the highest tradition of local pantomime.

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