Posted by Lucy Jenkins
After watching and reviewing the Walkington Pantomime, my expectations for ‘Under Canvas’ were considerably high. Were my expectations met you may ask? Of course they were. Although this particular performance may not be suitable for younger audiences, the aspects of comedy, the exciting storyline and sensational acting, with all actors perfectly adapting to the nature of the character, it certainly provided me, and seemingly everyone else in the audience, with a great sense of joy and respect for the brilliant work of everyone involved with the show.
The script, written by Claire Sreeves, was extremely creative, including some of the funniest jokes and aspects of comedy I had seen in any performance, including Gordon’s (played by Brian Shaw) new – and dope (pardon the pun) – t-shirt after having spaghetti thrown at him and his hilarious song about a yodelling Austrian. Another aspect of comedy that really stood out for me was the character of Fred (Martin Craven) the deaf man whose reactions were always delayed. I was very surprised by the elements of comedy, but it really made the performance and is why I enjoyed it so much. However, the non-comedy aspects of the show were also brilliant, including the hints of romance between Amanda (Jane Sharp) and Dave (Ben Gardiner) and the way the characters used the stage to enhance their performance. When addressing the children in the play, the characters spoke to the audience, allowing the audience to really engage with the characters.
All the actors in the production absolutely blew me away with their incredible performances and ability to portray such complex and unique characters. For example, Dave and Lucy (Claire Sreeves) have completely opposite personalities, with Dave encouraging the children to engage in rough play, but Lucy frantically worrying over her son Daniel, constantly checking if he is okay, yet they are able to interact brilliantly together onstage, and all the characters together, no matter how different they may be, really made the performance shine. I cannot possibly choose favourites, as they were all absolutely outstanding, but the characters that stood out the most were Gordon, John (Billy Brebner) and Lucy. Gordon was a hilarious character, reducing the audience to tears due to laughter. Everything Gordon said delivered at least a giggle from the audience, not to mention the howls of laughter with his t-shirt and song, as previously mentioned, breaking his chair and his rude gestures towards John and other characters. John was played brilliantly, and had a lovely character progression – from anxious and jittery at the beginning to lively and bold near the end, standing up for himself when facing difficulties. Finally, Lucy – the over-protective mother of ‘poor Daniel’. Lucy’s speech and gestures were exaggerated to emphasise her personality, giving her character a great sense of humour (which she herself did not have).
Although the set and lighting (done by Mat Sreeves) were simple but effective – it did not need anything else due to the focus on the characters and storyline, rather than dramatic effects which may have ruined the astounding play. However, the change of scene (when tents and a beautiful electric fire were added) really did add to the performance, and made it more convincing and realistic, making the audience feel as if they too were in the middle of a forest at night time. The sound effects (done by Martin Gore) and songs also gave the performance a lovely touch to it, particularly the fact that the Brownies and Beavers had sung the songs – this really warmed my heart and the singing was genuinely brilliant.
‘Under Canvas’ was truly a fantastic performance and I’m sure anyone who saw it would agree with me. The Walkington Pantomime Players are a lovely and extremely talented group of individuals who deserve to be greatly praised for all their hard work and effort that well and truly paid off with such an enjoyable performance. I would also like to acknowledge the production team and anyone who contributed to the performance as I am sure it couldn’t be done without those people. I am so excited to return to the village hall for the next show.
All Photos from Walkington Pantomime Players.