St Mary's Church Parish Magazine Review


Strident boos and hisses and shouts of “He’s behind you” from an excitable audience, demonstrated that we were in panto time again. This year was the turn of a glittering performance of Aladdin by the Victory Players, with the usual cast of goodies and baddies and menial peasants.

The plot is all about money and marriage, and how the poor boy Aladdin rescues the magic lamp to release the all-powerful genie. He also marries the Emperor’s lovely daughter, and reduces the baddies to shame and poverty. The plot is held together by Li-Hi, the continuity girl played by Shirley Michell, who from time to time tells the audience what is happening. She shimmers on and off the stage and to their great delight milks the audience for all its worth. Cheers for her every time.

The greedy villain is Abanazer, wickedly played by John Bunn with loud boos at every entrance. He was helped by the apparently innocent Mustapha, actually Isabel Gordon, dispensing his seductive magic pills with evil intent. They both came to a sticky end.

Widow Twanky, the washerwoman and mother of Aladdin, is brilliantly played by, who else but, the outrageous Rodney Saunders. When he is on stage, the others hardly get a look in, although Amanda Holland as Wishee Washee gave as good as she got Aladdin, his son, is played as tradition demands, by a girl, in this case a very demure and anxious Jo Armstrong who was well cast to play the part of a confused young boy finally to marry the Emperor’s lovely daughter, Lotus Flower. Lotus, Emily Holland, was an attractive choice and was feisty in her battle with her father about who she should marry. She got her own way in the end.

The Emperor Ming Vase, played by Max Preston-Bell, was suitably haughty and sure of himself in all his demands, and often drove his poor wife, Ko Ping, Jacqueline Keyhoe, to distraction. But he too lost out at the end and was forced into a more humble existence.

Botts Bottomley as the Genie, Abdul, showed off his ample muscles and was gushingly servile to a fault.

The remaining cast all entered into the spirit of the pantomime and played their parts to perfection. As did the audience, who really enjoyed their own participation. And how lovely to see all the children joining in, both on stage and in the hail.

Final congratulations to the Director Roger Bell, John Fielder for the music, the set constructions by John and Collette Randall, and Barbara Saunders, and the brilliant costumes by Maggie Kear and Anthea Bell. And to all the back stage and front of house staff.

Leslie Fairweather (“Oh yes it is”!)

Mid Sussex Times Review

Aladdin rubs audiences up the right way!

PRODUCING a genie from a lamp has never been easy - and Balcombe’s Victory Players gave themselves a tall order when they chose Aladdin as this year’s pantomime. But good set designs, some wonderfully painted washing machines for Wishee Washee and Widow Twankey, and a generous helping of abracadabra magic helped the cast of 21 manage a believable tale.

Comedy is not easy, however, and with panto a lot depends on your audience playing ball and shouting the usual “he’s behind you” and booing appropriately. This was done with generosity, on Saturday night at least, and the actors put everything into their performances, obviously enjoying themselves after months of rehearsals. For one family it was a particularly memorable show with three generations treading the boards, making up almost a third of the cast.

Grandmother Sue Etheridge as Tet Lee kept her progeny in order with one daughter, Amanda Holland, an energetic and free spirited Wishee Washee, and the other, Caroline Carpenter, playing a more discreet villager.

Sue also had her grandchildren on the stage - Emily Holland as the leading lady, Lotus Flower, her sister Chloe as the palace servant, Ti Foo, and their younger brother Jack as a guard, Hi Wun.

Roger Bell, former village shopkeeper turned director, managed a smoothly executed production that exuded colourful costumes and slick timing while musical director John Fielder elicited tuneful singing of songs that the audience obligingly join in with. Genie Abdul, played by an exotic Botts Bottomley, and his side kick, Tai Wan, whose lines were delivered flawlessly by Nancy Bottomley, were other highlights along with emperor Ming Vase, acted commandingly by Max Preston-Bell, and his empress Ko Ping, played by Jacqueline Kehoe.

Narrator Shirley Mitchell, Jo Armstrong as Aladdin, John Bunn as the evil Abanazar and Rodney Saunders as a larger than life, slapstick Widow Twankey, all helped to make this production a sparkling addition to the Victory Players’ growing accolades. The troupe, whose president is Joy Scofield, widow of the previous incumbant, the late Shakespearean actor Paul Scofield, was ably supported, as always, by numerous people behind the scenes, including a front of house team in DJs and long dresses who showed everyone to their seat, making this a pleasant evening’s entertainment all round.

Carolyn Robertson