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“Robinson Crusoe”

Fun, laughter, wicked pirates and hidden treasure were all in evidence at the Hempstead village hall on the 1st and 2nd December 2006. The pantomime "Robinson Crusoe” was presented by the Dramatic Society, over three performances, during which the audiences were provided with good family entertainment, including music, comedy, dancing, bright colourful costumes and lots of noisy participation.
The book written by Daniel Defoe back in 1721 comprises just two characters, Robinson Crusoe and Man Friday, which would make for a dull evening at the theatre. Thankfully however this pantomime was written by John Morley so that is how, in Act 1, we get a large cast of characters boarding ship in the London docks en route to the treasure island of Umumello. Unbeknown to them, en route they are being stalked by evil pirates.

Playing the principal boy, Charlotte Sladen as Robinson Crusoe charms the audience from her first entrance. (Charlotte also deserves special mention having single handedly painted all the sets.)

Robinsons love interest is provided by a very pretty Rachel Crane as Polly - the daughter of the ships captain - whose excellent performance was complemented by her good singing voice.

Nigel Smith (Mrs. Crusoe) as the Dame seems to have found his forte and hammed the part up with great gusto. Such was his enthusiasm that he could be found in The Bluebell later in the evening, still in costume, and still in character.

The Captain of the Mary Rose was played by David Grimster in “old sea dog“ fashion. Some excellent slapstick comedy was provided by Helen Midgeley and Emma Nicholson as Bill Barnacle and Ben Dover. All the above were ably supported by an even “older sea dog” in Alan Weedon as Old Jim, and the chorus of Lydia Sladen, Anna Midgeley, Michael Kitchen and Isobel Nicholson.

The wicked pirate Blackpatch played by James Nicholson gets the audience booing with an excellent characterisation from the start, (Oh yes he did!), ably supported by his pirate henchman, Jack Boot, played by Victoria Jarman. Act 1 ends with the Mary Rose having been treacherously sunk by these dastardly pirates.
Act 2 finds the cast on a Desert Island, with terrifying cannibals led by a cruel queen, grunting gorillas, lost temples and swash buckling fight scenes.

Sue Ray, magnificently blacked up as the evil cannibal queen Wotta Woppa, gives an outrageous performance, a combination of “The Last King of Scotland” and a black and white minstrel. I very much liked the “cheeky” contribution made by Anna Midgley as Man Friday.

The pantomime completes with the arrival of Lord Nelson, a cameo performance by Michael Kitchen, whose timely intervention with a ship enables the cast to return to their home port, and presumably live happily ever after.

Making her directorial debut, Frances Sladen deserves great credit for pulling the cast together wonderfully well over many set changes and some difficult to stage events such as the sinking of the Mary Rose.

The contribution of the Musical Director Paul Davies combined with the efforts of John Sladen and his support team, too numerous to be mentioned here, delivered a superb production.

The Hempstead Players work hard to give us a memorable pantomime every year and this year was no exception.

Well done everyone!

By Jim Rennie

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