No Walls Creative Arts, 5th – 8th, Devonport Playhouse

No Walls Creative Arts present the classic tale of ‘Cinderella’, as their annual panto. It contained the traditional story we all know and love with some interesting twists, including a feisty Cinders played by Charlotte Robinson.

When I entered the theatre that evening I wasn’t expecting one of the scenes to take place in a karaoke bar. Who knew you could meet your Prince Charming in such a place? The cast clearly enjoyed this scene as it included the popular title song from ‘The Greatest Showman’ led by DJ Mhaled (Lucy Oliver).

For many of the cast this will be one of their last shows with No Walls Creative Arts, as they complete university this year. It is clear to see that during their time with the company these actors have bonded off-stage too. In this performance we were able to see how each of them has developed their different character acting skills and their strength in performing as an ensemble.

There were also some newcomers to pantomime in this performance. Darren Ball as the Fairy Godmother played his first role in a panto but it seemed like he had been on the stage all his life. He stepped into his sparkly shoes and donned a glorious curly wig, completely transforming into Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother. He had great rhythm in his speech and had created a fabulous sing-song gentle voice for the Fairy Godmother.

This panto is definitely on the cheeky side with plenty of innuendo and political jokes, however the younger members also seemed to enjoy the show thanks to the familiar songs, fun dance numbers and audience participation. If you are looking for a show that will be enjoyed by both adults and children then head to ‘Cinderella’.

Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood

Touchwood Theatre Company, 28th November – 1st December, Devonport Playhouse

Touchwood performed their annual pantomime to an audience of eager fans. ‘Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood’ had everything you could hope for in a panto, including some great additional characters.

Forget the traditional story of Robin Hood. Touchwood’s version features the young babes Adam (Rhys Greenfield) & Alice (Izzy Ackerman) as well as several evil witches terrorising anyone who dares venture into Nottingham Forest!

We were also treated to dynamic duo, Jolly the Jester and Jelly the Baton Twirler. Jolly played by Jessica Ball was an absolute bundle of energy. She had so much enthusiasm in her performance which encouraged us to join in with her fun audience participation. Her cheeky personality shone through while she sang and danced. The scenes that featured Jolly, Jelly and Nurse Nora (David Bailey) showed that this trio had excellent on-stage chemistry.

This all singing, all dancing cast may have ranged in age but all were working together to create a fun filled evening. One particularly impressive moment was during the song ‘Tap’ where one of the youngest members of the cast tapped alongside two of the adults. The excellent dancing showed off her impressive technique – she is definitely going to be one to watch!

A special mention goes to the musical director who choose a quirky and hilarious assortment of songs, many of them featuring references to Robin Hood.

The leading man, Robin Hood (Josh Frost) gave a very tongue-in-cheek performance as he galloped around the stage on his imaginary horse and played the hero. This was made even more hilarious by Shannah Russell’s reactions (as Maid Marion) to his gallant behaviour. The swooning Maid Marion definitely earned her place in this pantomime.

If you are ready to get into the spirit of panto then head to the Devonport Playhouse for ‘Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood’.

Applause, Applause!

City Of Plymouth Theatre Company, Devonport Playhouse, 14th – 17th November

To celebrate 30 years at the Devonport Playhouse, City Of Plymouth Theatre Company opened its curtains to ‘Applause, Applause’, a musical revue featuring songs from previous shows performed by the company.

The show opened with a spectacular tap dance number from 42nd Street. With so many talented actors and dancers involved in this company, the large dance routines seem to have become a speciality of theirs. We were treated to dynamic dance numbers throughout in a range of styles.

Many of the actors returned to the roles they had played in the original run of the shows. We re-lived magical moments such as Sam Wilson’s Top Hat solo and Katy O’Brien’s performance of ‘I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair’ accompanied by the female members of the company.

Talking to company members and audience members, it seems Fiddler on the Roof was a particularly successful and memorable production. Having begun reviewing after this performance, I was delighted to see a medley of the songs had been included in this show. The entire cast entered the stage in period dress, dancing and singing ‘Tradition’. The cast members were able to re-capture the magic of this production.

It was a shame that more instrumentalists weren’t involved in the band for this show, as even within the five years I have been reviewing I have heard a range of musicians play wonderful accompaniments to the productions.

We were treated to a fabulous range of numbers from timeless classics such as South Pacific to modern musicals such as Legally Blonde. With so many fantastic shows under their belt, the producers did a great job of choosing the night’s musical selection. The songs flowed from one to another thanks to an excellent lighting crew. If you are a fan of musical theatre, you are sure to know many of the songs featured in ‘Applause, Applause’!

The Hound Of The Baskervilles

The Tamaritans, 24th – 27th October, The Red House Theatre

What better place to perform The Hound Of The Baskervilles than at a Plymouth Theatre? Set on Dartmoor, this spooky tale has been adapted for stage from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous Sherlock Holmes story.

One of the most refreshing elements of The Tamaritans production was the authenticity of the South West accents. Often professional actors from other regions portray a more Bristolian sounding accent or over-do the rhythm of the sentence.

In particular Jade Callender as Perkins, the maid gave a hilarious and believable performance as a girl who had grown up in a village on the moor. The rhythm in her speech was perfect and added to the humour of her almost childlike way of talking about the terrifying hound.

Sherlock Holmes mysteries have been re-told time and time again so it is always interesting to see different portrayals of Holmes and Dr Watson. Steve Baker gave a curious aloofness to the personality of Sherlock but also showed a warmer, more forgiving side to the character. The deductions were fascinating but seeing Holmes’ personality come through helped bring the writing to life.

This play is set entirely in the sitting room at Baskerville Hall. The set designers did a wonderful job of creating a cosy space, which gave a stark contrast to the moor looming outside the door. The production team’s combination of sounds and lighting completely convinced me that the terrifying moorland lay beyond the door.

If you are looking for an evening of suspense, excitement and investigation then head to Baskerville Hall with The Tamaritans. This is a great introduction to Sherlock Holmes that I am sure will prove popular with all ages.