IT’S that time of the year again. Time for children to line the rows of the Garrison Theatre to watch classic goodie and baddie tales unfold, time for Shetland’s homegrown acting talent to flourish, time for parents to scoff their kids’ sweets whilst they’re not looking, writes our panto reviewer Chris Cope.
Yes, it’s time for the pantomime season and this year sees the Islesburgh Drama Group present their production of Babes in the Wood.
It’s a milestone-reacher too, with the Stanley Manson directed panto the group’s 30th to date.
On Wednesday night the two-act, ten-scene shindig premiered and it saw a brimming Garrison audience shout ’til their spleens nearly exploded as the production ticked all of the panto boxes in style.
It was the third time the Islesburgh ensemble have put on Babes in the Wood and this year’s effort pivoted on the casting of Malcolm Younger as the devious Sheriff of Nottingham.
The media man by day played the villain role with a wicked glint in his eye as he hatched a plan to kill the panto’s two young babes – excellently played by James and Lois Phillips – in an attempt to nab their inheritance money.
With the pantomime running until 6 December, the plot shouldn’t be spoiled – but let’s just say Robin Hood and his merry men should never be underestimated.
A couple of opening night jitters early on were laid to rest as the cast – enlivened by George and John Webster as the bumbling duo of Whippem and Floggem – kicked off the Islesburgh Drama Group production with assured comic timing and sprightly sing-songs.
The sets, stage design and props were spot-on as Nottingham’s mystical Sherwood Forest came to life with panache, whilst the headless ghost and his spooky puppet – who appeared in a ghoulish castle enclave – was one of the night’s highlights.
It wasn’t all just for the bairns, however, with a constant stream of sharp-witted double-entendres, puns and gags keeping the parents amused.
“With friends like these, who needs enemas?” quipped Nurse Jemima Jollop (Karl Ward), whilst the two Websters combined superbly in the latter half to poke fun at our dearly beloved council in the jaunty ditty ‘We’re a Couple of Swells’.
A number boomed by Ms Jollop in local dialect was also a hit – which joked about falling for a “rich man from Petrofac” – whilst a notable mention should go to the steadfast musicians Carol Jamieson, Neil Morris and Douglas Johnstone. Even if the latter did scare the living daylights out of you with theatric, out-of-the-blue cymbal smashes every so often.
There was too, of course, a myriad of “he’s behind you” wails alongside boos and hisses from the crowd, whose attention notably piqued when the cast members went for a run-around through the aisles.
Come the end of the panto, the audience left happy, chuckled-out and probably a bit flummoxed too after seeing the aforementioned Younger dote on the dolled-up dame during the cutesy Chitty Chitty Bang Bang tune ‘Choochie Face’.
And the fact that this production was coined by an intrepid gang of Shetland’s very own amateur drama enthusiasts made it all the more impressive.