By Glastonbury Town Players, in association with Shadow of the Tor.
Laugh?! I thought they’d never dry, as the saying goes! What a towering Tor (sic) de Force!
Written by the talented Matthew Fellowes – who also trod the boards in a couple of cameo roles – this rollicking, at times almost Rabelaisian, romp through the wetlands and highlands of Avalon caused raucous laughter from start to finish.
The plot was simple, though very Glastonian. Where else, I ask you, would you find the Alternative Community parodied with such pointed perfection in such conceits as the hilarious Mumbo Jumbo Healing Contest – or, indeed, Dick’s abiding dream of reaching that pinnacle of Pagan power: Self-Proclaimed Archbishop of Avalon?!
Dick – a superb performance by Rhiannon Locke, replete with all the sartorial signs of Principal Boy status, right down to the tricorn hat, velvety trews and the adolescent male’s bum-fluff on upper lip – with the obligatory cat, Chairman Meow (a sinuously graceful performance by Lysah Hughesman), and hankie-on-a-stick motif, entered the contest, ended up on board the Hey How Me Hearty, with its gallimaufry of piratical types and wandering odd-balls and, at the end, was shown his true self.
Word-perfect, a commanding presence on stage and possessed of a beautiful singing voice as well as a face so expressive that every emotion seemed writ large, Rhiannon’s portrayal of the hapless Dick was consistently magnificent.
Julie Raybould, as the Chief Baddie, Morganna, was absolutely wonderful: A towering talent, both terrifying and hysterically funny. Clad in black and purple, with a startlingly painted face, it looked as if a raven had first roosted, and then died, in her vertiginous hair-do.
Trooper to the last, Julie – who has, I gather, been a member of GTP almost from its 1986 beginnings – went on despite having injured her foot. The resulting heavy boot and lurching limp was, actually, both brilliantly appropriate for the character (suggesting a sort of sinister Frankenstein’s Monster edge to her evil) and extremely funny to watch.
She cackled and gibbered, grimaced and clawed her way through, adorned with a Queen’s Ransom of jewels, and revealed a wonderfully smoky Jazz singing voice in her solo ‘I’ve Put a Spell on you’ – an apt choice, if ever there was one!
She was ably supported by her very own pair of Rats, fabulously played by Brad Crowley (who is well over six foot, at a guess) and Phoebe (who quite definitely isn’t!). As King Rat, hunched and grovelling, black masked nose a-quivering, paws doing their very own little Uriah Heepish dance of obsequiousness, Brad was brilliant – and, towards the end, standing tall, clad in a greenish coat and belting out Alestorm’s ‘Shipwrecked’, he was both powerful and utterly mesmerising.
In this song, he was ably assisted by Francis Oliver in true Headbanging mode. Fortunately, both men are plentifully-supplied on the follicular front – and the resulting moves probably only dislodged a mere handful!
Francis Oliver, who directed the whole show most ably, played the Dame character with an endearing battiness and a falsetto you could have crackled glass with! Asked to step into bra and frock at the eleventh hour, he did a pretty good job!
Much of the slapstick was provided by gormless, garrulous spies, and general nautical lurkers, Double O and Seven (loved it!) played with great panache and energy by Alison Hall and Eve Bryczkowski. Who could forget the moment when Double O tried to hoick Seven through the window?
What would a pantomime be without its resident Fairy? And this role was played beautifully, in every sense, by the glittery-tutu-clad Barry Koppe. From his muttered, ‘You overblown strumpet!’ to his adamantine conviction that queens have the right to knight anyone, he commanded the eye and produced many a giggle from the audience.
The pantomime was replete with all the requisite verbal humour: An entire Punt of Puns, used especially by Chairman Meow – ‘hiss and tell’ paw-enforcement’ ‘kitty-littering’! ; Spoonerism – ‘nissed as pewts’ as voiced by the Bosun, a cracking performance by Morgan Pandolfino – and, of course, a plenitude of phrases guaranteed to tickle the funny-bones of Glastonbury’s right-thinking citizenry (and , I suspect, to poke fun at the po-faced!): ‘the happy laughter of the happy hippy’, ‘Rats of the Druidic Order’ and so forth.
Double-entendre was used to good effect as well, with comments upon Master Whittington’s first name conjuring up all manner of images, and the marvellously ambivalent, ‘Please control your pussy!’ causing a storm of chortling.
The crew of the Hey How Me Hearty – the lugubrious Alderman, Rich Smith, sardonic Bosun and their temporary Captain, played so well by Leah Gray, who, far from being a naval officer, was actually just a Guide Captain! – worked very well as a team and managed to infuse their voyage with the necessary dead parrots, crew hors de combat after a particularly rough night of party games and many other sea-faring comments and gags.
The Mumbo Jumbo Contest was side-splittingly funny as the competitors gurned and gesticulated and parodied the many self-important sayings used by some of Avalon’s more charlatan-esque residents! The capering of Crystal Balls, an excellent performance by Nino Borzoni, along with his eye-wrenching red and yellow costume, had the audience in stitches, while Cath Gray’s wonderful Church of Chinese Whispers had many of us caught between guffaws and guilty recognition!
The Young Things – pre-teens, at a guess – were extremely good, with Phoebe an able and tiny Minion Rat to Brad’s King, and Dana a most fetching Alice.
Towards the end, we met the viridescent Meare Swamp People – a ROFL-inducing nod to all rural communities with a certain swampy reputation (and the alleged webbed-feet to prove it). Matthew Fellowes, with his Gollum-like refrain of ‘Thumbs!’ was great, as was his side-kick!
Directed by Francis Oliver, produced by Brad Crowley (who also chose the music), written by Matthew Fellowes, with costumes made by Jan Oakley and production advice (and so much more besides) provided by Alison Hall, this show was a treat to the eye and a delight to the sense of humorous joy. We all whooped and booed and hissed and fell about laughing.
Congratulations to all involved! It was so good, I am going again tonight!