A READER submitted a review of a pantomime in Prudhoe.

Ian Warburton reviewed the performance of Hansel and Gretel by the Dragon Tale Theatre Group, which was produced at Highfield Middle School from November 1-4. 

He said: "If it’s the autumn half-term in Prudhoe, then you know that members of the town’s Dragon Tale Theatre Group will be busy performing their latest pantomime. 

Hexham Courant: All the cast of Hansel and GretelAll the cast of Hansel and Gretel (Image: Moments Photography North East)

"This year was no exception, as the Group presented the show Hansel and Gretel, written by Alan Frayn, at Highfield Middle School from Wednesday, November 1-Saturday, November 4 inclusive.  I joined the audience for the Friday evening performance and it was an absolute joy to be there, as ever.

Hexham Courant: The production of Hansel and Gretel was a successThe production of Hansel and Gretel was a success (Image: Moments Photography North East)

"As usual, the performances played to almost capacity audiences, with many favourable comments being made to me by audience members who mostly did not know that I was reviewing the show. It is well known that the Group warmly appreciates the high level of support that it receives from the local community and this shows no sign at all of abating.

"The show had all the expected ingredients of a successful pantomime, with one of the funniest scripts which the Group has ever used, all the usual stock pantomime characters and large enough helpings of oh yes it is/oh no it isn’t and it’s behind you to keep audience members happy.

Hexham Courant: Dragon Tale's pantomime production at Highfield Middle SchoolDragon Tale's pantomime production at Highfield Middle School (Image: Moments Photography North East)

"I simply don’t have enough space to mention by name everyone who deserves it, so, if your name isn’t included here, please accept my apologies; this isn’t intended to imply any lack of appreciation of your role.

"One of the strengths of the Dragon Tale productions is the ensemble singing.  The first such item was the song Mr Blue Sky, setting a very high standard, which was maintained throughout.  Aaron Graves (who later appeared as the Wolf) proved to be a very fine lead soloist.  A song like this highlights the numerous skills needed by each participant, including singing, dancing, getting timings right and remembering to act all the time, even in the sections when their characters had nothing specific to do.   

"Turning to individual performances, it is worth noting that a few parts were played by different actors in different performances during the week and the allocation of actors to parts reflects what was happening at the performance which I attended.

"Becca Robinson opened the production very effectively as Bluebell the Fairy and it was good to see her again from time to time as the story unfolded.

"The title parts of Hansel and Gretel were played by Katherine Hinchcliffe and Cate Wootton, who brought out all the charm of the parts and showed that they were keen always to work as part of a team.

"Their loving father Fritz was portrayed by Ray Moore, having a change after playing the villain last year.  Is there any accent that he can’t do?  All the love in the character was very well brought out, as was the haplessness of his marriage to the children’s stepmother Hildegard, a less than lovable character, played with just the right touch of malice by Fiona Henderson, who also directed the show.

"Every good pantomime should have a dame and Lee Robinson played Peggy Pumpernickel to perfection, extracting all the humour and pathos demanded by the role. The dame’s son, Wally, was played in a friendly way by Louis Popov, whose comic timing is surely second to none.  He even made the most excruciating puns sound freshly minted. 

"His sister Heather, who falls in love with Prince Johann, was portrayed beautifully by Poppy Kingston, who showed that she can sing to the same high standard as her acting.  The Prince was played by Fintan Ellender on the night on which I attended.  He was played as a quiet, kindly, concerned character and it was good that he got to marry his love in the end.

"Playing a baddy for the first time was Daniel Gowens, as Nightshade.  It said something for his talent that a man so affable in real life could demonstrate such a nasty nature on stage and many were the boos and hisses which greeted him all the way through.

"Hayley Kock and Bethany Eltringham had slightly smaller parts as Klaus and Klein but proved their worth as they lent continuity to the action.  Worth noting also was the cleverly thought out contribution of two boys, Harry Clubbs and Ben Humphreys, as Basil and Nut-Meg.  They should have a very bright future in the Group.  The short but very funny receptionist cameo was expertly realised by Dawn Cooper.

"One of my favourite sections was the radio sketch, ably presented by Caitlin Hughes, Lorraine Lathan and Peter McKay.  Others will have had their own favourite sections but right through the performance I did not pick up a single missed cue or wrong musical note, all of which added up to a truly splendid evening’s entertainment (or afternoon, if you were at the Saturday matinee).

"But I’m sure that those who went on stage would agree that many other people also helped to make the show a success.

"These included, in no particular order, those who carried out tasks relating to provision of music (the small ensemble, directed by Bethany Fisher, was a joy to listen to), sound, lighting, make-up, wardrobe, set design, scenery/props, setting up and down the stage and hall as a whole, front of house, selling tickets, transport, catering, use of social media design and production of programmes, photography and videography, as well as jobs needed to comply with the law, such as registration and chaperoning. 

"All who worked on these tasks did their jobs thoroughly and contributed in no small way to the overall success.

"Dragon Tale is a member of the National Operatic and Dramatic Association (NODA) and it was good that on Thursday evening producer Stu Rutherford-Orrock presented NODA long service awards to Violet Bewick and Ben Rutherford-Orrock (15 years) and Dawn Cooper, Caitlin Hughes and Tahnya Tulip-Maughan (10 years).

"All in all, it was a privilege to attend such a top-class event.  The fact that people are already asking what the next production will be speaks for itself."