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Another well-written production from John O’Leary and Amy Hansford, which was very funny and well-received by the audience.  However, I do feel that it is something that is becoming too much of a play, and less of a pantomime as time goes on.  There was hardly any audience participation, which is part and parcel of a pantomime, whether a standard or adult one, and some parts would have been better left to the imagination or referred to by innuendo, as everything was spelled out in detail.  I’m no prude, and enjoy adult humour, but did feel that sometimes this production went a little too far.

The set was quite basic, which was referred to in the script, but the backcloths were very colourful and suited to the scenes they were used for.  Changes were quick and well-accomplished.  The whole was well-lit and although there isn’t much scope for anything out of the ordinary in pantomime, what there was enhanced the set and the production well.

There were some good costumes, which suited the cast and the characters well, and in themselves were not (in the main) too suggestive.  I thought the Lion’s makeup was excellent.

Jenna Ryder-Oliver as Dorothy, gave us a super performance, which is what I have come to expect from her, and the solo numbers she had were very well sung.  Jenna always gives us lots of expression and keeps the character throughout despite some distractions!

Kate Johnson as a very inebriated Glenda was excellent – it would have been easy for Kate to have overdone the inebriation, but every word was clear, so again very well done.

I loved David Robinson’s ‘Scarecrow’ – he was dim and full-on, but created a super character which was maintained the whole time, and his solo number at the beginning of Act 2 – was extremely well-sung and acted.

Josh Thompson is fast becoming a good all-round performer, and his Tin Man was no exception, and again I loved his song – very much a jazz feel, which suited him and the part.  Lots of comedy between Tin Man and Scarecrow, sometimes a little unscripted I felt!!

Dee Lovelock was a very funny Aunt Fanny – Dee always gives a part depth and breadth, and the signing scene was a hoot.  She had a very normal relationship with Richard Alexander as Uncle Henry – lots of sarcasm and taking each other down a peg or two at every opportunity, and Mr Alexander in his vest/thong was a revelation!!  These two were very good narrators, with their good comedy timing and sniping.  I liked the references to other shows.......

The Wicked Bitch was played with tongue-in-cheek humour by Errol Albert, who always manages to get a good interaction with the audience, whilst not always sticking to the script!!  The scene where he fell over and lost his wig was hilarious, one of those things that wasn’t meant to happen, but added to the general jollity.

Ben Jaggers was the Lion, and although he got the feel of the part well, I felt he didn’t always interact totally with the other two ‘friends’ and was probably the weakest of the three.

Kim Albone and Katy Elliott as the Essex Birds were really full on, and certainly looked and acted their parts extremely well.  I felt that at times they enjoyed the parts too much, and the words became a little unclear, accents and expression are all good, but diction – even if heavily accented – needs to be understandable for the audience.  But such energy and fun from them both.

Richard Haxell was a very sleazy Mr Gulch, I liked the tightly belted mac – with always the anticipation that at some stage he would give us a flash – quite a disappointment that he didn’t – but perhaps next time!!  Richard also voiced the Wizard, which was a nice technical scene, and was the Mayor, wearing more suitable clothing!!

The three chorus members, Sam Russell, Heather Coupe and Luke Murphy performed their different parts very well, and were joined in various guises by Lynda Fagan, I particularly liked her Absinthe Fairy.

Amy Hansford made a very amusing cameo appearance as an Oompa-Loompa, again another character straying in from another show!

The opening was good, and very lively – good movement and some nice harmonies.  I liked the choreography for ‘Tongue Tied’ – it was a bit different and suited the music, and ‘Chavs on the Moon’ was also funny.  I believe James Driver writes the words for the songs used, which are always very funny, and there were some good harmonies as well.  The arrangements were excellent, with the trio including James and Les Arnold creating a great sound that complemented the performers.

I must comment on the audience the night I was there, around where we sat there were some who went out, presumably to the loo, at least two or three times per act – not only is it distracting, but it is also to me, an avid theatregoer, very bad manners, no respect for the performers or the audience around them!!  Such a shame to have that sort of disruption and of course the subsequent blocking of views of the stage while they get back to their seats!!

So – thanks to the cast and crew for another good production from Griffins, which was enjoyed by us all, and I understand their programme for the year and into 2014 looks to be a good one, which I’m looking forward to.


FRIENDS OF DOROTHY” review date: 9TH Feb 2013


Directed and Written by:  John O’Leary & Amy Hansford MD: James Driver    Choreographer: Lynette Driver


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