Review: Rapunzel pantomime by All Souls Dramatic Club, The Atkinson, Southport by Andrew Brown, Stand Up For Southport.
Wow. What. A. Panto!
We’ve been looking forward to seeing this show for months. All Souls productions always have that wow factor; the ability to amaze, to delight, to surprise. This panto certainly packed a punch!
There were eight of us in a fully-booked theatre on Saturday, and the standing ovation from the audience at the end of the show was thoroughly well deserved.
We came to see Rapunzel, a feisty heroine with locks that can rival even the most outrageous hairstyles.
We got far more than that – including six fairytale princesses instead of one! They were all created by Rapunzel, the brilliant Heather Gommersall, who imagined them up as she used the gift of her imagination to write magical stories which included her favourite characters.
We had Aurora (Hannah Grunshaw), Cinderella (Kelly Anderson), Snow White (Lauren Brown), Belle (Zara Newton), and Jasmine (Kai-Enna Mook).
They were superb; funny, feisty, with great numbers including The Spice Girls’ Wannabe. Their on-stage chemistry was magical. It was lovely to see them, alongside other characters, coming down into the ground floor at The Atkinson after the show, where they were mobbed by excited children wanting to get their pictures taken with them.
Rapunzel had been born to King Charles (Alan Casserley) and the Queen (Karen Parkinson) before being taken from her loving family by an evil spirit and writing a book in revenge – I think it was called ‘Spare’. Or maybe that’s a different story.
We got the deliciously evil Mother Gothel (Hayley Jones), who summoned up her own characters, this time evil ones such as Maleficent, Captain Hook, the Wicked Witch and others to imprison the good guys.
It was so utterly evil, it was like watching Paula Vennells (ex CBE) locking up all the postmasters.
Hayley is such an immense singer and a great performer, with a real presence on stage; she drew loads of boos from the audience!
It was one of the many ways the people watching the show loved getting involved.
Lots of people got a soaking from the two hilarious panto dames, Dame Fanny Gallups (Cliff Gillies) and Dame Bella Gallups (Ian Lawson), alongside five-year-old Thea, who was invited on-stage to celebrate her birthday. Never has a water gun been put to such good use.
They could well be the two best panto dames I’ve seen; their performances, their acts and their lines were original, the jokes were extremely funny, the interactions with the audience were warm and genuine. The ad-libbing was brilliant!
One scene was so good, poor Hayley Jones didn’t stand a chance standing near them trying hard not to laugh.
Then came one of the best scenes I’ve seen in a panto – the two dames singing ‘I Know Him So Well’ by Elaine Page and Barbara Dickson in a very unique way. Just outstanding.
So many pantos are formulaic, predictable and cheesy. This production reinvented what panto is and can be, with lots of blue sky thinking and originality.
Rapunzel’s love interest, Robin Hood, was played brilliantly by James Shaw, bursting onto the stage with the Wham! Rap and again defying panto conventions (‘are you a prince? A knight? A millionaire?’ ‘No! I’m a thief!’) Yet another really strong character.
Robin was well supported by Will Scarlett (Crisi Swash), the Robin to his Batman, another good double act. And she had more lines than the poor Friar Tuck…
Sophie Parkes got some great laughs as Waterfield.
The Fairy Godmother (Jaqui Lewis) is another powerful singer with a fantastic voice.
There were no passengers in this show, there were strong performances everywhere.
There was no slow build-up either, every scene stood out in its own way and had its own place.
Special mentions also to the So Talented Junior Dancers, who were excellent; the musicians, nice to see them on top of a platform at the back of the stage looking down; and of course the Production Team, the Wardrobe Team, and all the other All Souls members, volunteers and supporters who spend months making this show happen.
A really brilliant night out, and the perfect way to smile and laugh your way out of the January blues.
We’re looking forward to next year’s show already.
Rapunzel Performance Times
Thursday 11 January 2024 – 7:30pm
Saturday 13 January 2024 – 2:00pm & 7:30pm
Sunday 14 January 2024 – 2:00pm
Thursday 18 January 2024 – 7:30pm
Friday 19 January 2024 – 7:30pm
Saturday 20 January 2024 – 2:00pm & 7:30pm
Sunday 21 January 2024 – 11:30am & 4:30pm
Approximate Running Time: 75 mins / 20 minute interval / 60 mins
Tickets: £15 / £12.50 under 16s
Matinee and evening shows are available, with tickets available from The Atkinson here.