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December 2005
King Arthur the Panto
reviewed by Jon Moreno in The Isle of Wight County Press 9/12/05
(reproduced by kind permission of the Isle of Wight County Press)

It may not have been the King Arthur of romantic tradition, but Cowes Amateur, Operatic and Dramatic Society's (CAODS) pantomime adventure was a delightful tale with something for everyone.

Instead of the swashbuckling hero, CAODS's Arthur played by Paul Birch was a cheery, more benign monarch who took a back seat to a wealth of lively and often wacky charachters.

The company's fairly entertaining opening performance of King Arthur: The Panto was played to a lethargic and less than half full Trinity Theatre on Saturday afternoon. It was a real community effort with plenty of talented local youngsters taking part.

KingArthur had all the ingredients one would expect in a traditional Christmas panto ­ principal boy, girl and baddies, the dame, the audience's friend and the fool- but as hard as the cast tried, it failed to muster any notable enthusiasm.

Even cast members commented the audience was quiet during the show. The tale surrounded the love interest between wannabe knight, Gawain the minstrel, and Arthur's ward, Lady Rowena, and the build-up to an epic sword fight between Gawain and the raucous Green Knight for Rowena's hand.

Rob Merrifield, one of the panto's bright sparks as the Green Knight, was suitably nasty. But the pretty Jo Plumbley, as Gawain, was too feminine to pull off the role as a man chivalrously battling for another woman's affections. And though Lucy Underwood was a fine Rowena, her singing voice was at times as difficult to listen to as creaking armour.

Wayne Child as Queen Guinevere was a great panto dame and the children who made up the chorus of knights and ladies of Camelot, pages, goblins and maids of honour, were a joy throughout the two­hour show.

Stuart Pointing as Jingles, the camp Welsh court jester, would in most cases have raised groans and laughs for his Christmas cracker-style jokes from typical panto audiences,but he failed to connect with this particular audience.

Amber Beard played a public relations guru, Polly Robinson, brought back from the 21st century by Merlin to improve Camelot's image. Taken in isolation, Amber played the role well, though I felt the character itself did not work into the story and I don't
believe the youngsters in the audience could fathom it out either.

Nimue, Merlin's apprentice, was very well performed by young Bryony Davies who developed a good connection with the audience. But it was a pity Nick Simmonds could not have used one of Merlin's spells to help improve his performance as the magician.

Generally, the songs chosen were pleasant and apt and the costumes were colourful and eye catching but the backdrops were ordinary, half-hearted efforts. CAODS is a talented company but some of its players were either miscast, unhappy with the material or had become crestfallen by the audience's silence.



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