Red Riding Hood
Coral Norton
Granny Hood
Paul Barrington
Mary Hood
Lucy Lamb
Tom Foolery
Pete Whitaker
Dean Court
David Coward
Jason Greenwood
Chris Moore
Nicki Nutz
Shelley Gould
Bobbi Boltz
Christine Duell

Fiona The Fairy
Debra Crowton
Big Bad Wolf
Mike Young
Count Dracula
Paulie Beecroft
Larry Lamb
Sarah Huggens
Shaun The Sheep
Jess Barras
Hetty The Hen
Kate Cheetham
Vamp 1
Laura Lock
Vamp 2
Charlotte Starr
Vamp 3
Fenella Courage
Mrs Hood
Diane Taylor
Mrs Doom Gloom
Val Gillard

Paulie Beecroft
Sarah Huggens
Jess Barras
Kate Cheetham
Laura Lock
Charlotte Starr
Fenella Courage
Diane Taylor
Val Gillard
Guinevere Blundett
Sammy Lee
Charlie Barrington
Emma Mcnish
Jane Edwards
Emma Lane
Lorraine Rowan
Emily Waugh

Directed by

Richard Facer
Cara Bowen
Musical Director
Ian Carter
Production Manager
Pete Whitaker
Shelley Gould
Stage Manager
Jane White
Set Build
John Gayler
Ann Smith/Anne Paskins
Valerie Gillard
Graphic Design
Jonathan Hall
Neil Mathieson

Keyboard 1
Ian Carter
Dan Priest
Lead Guitar
Andy Whitaker
Keyboards 2

Stuart Darling

Red Riding Hood

TODAY'S children have so much entertainment thrown at them through so many different media that it is heartening to feel the excitement of a young audience at a traditional pantomime like Highcliffe Charity Players' fortieth panto, 'Red Riding Hood'. This is one of the more polished local societies, and details like the very professionally written and designed programme put one from the start in a mood to be impressed. That mood continues as the lights go up on the first of a series of really excellent and imaginatively-lit sets and well-executed dance numbers, right through to the cascade of glitter from the Regent Centre ceiling at the final curtain.

The secret is surely that the cast are enjoying themselves as much as the audience is. One of the hardest things for an amateur actor is to sustain knockabout comedy, but in this production there are four clown-ish figures – Bobby Boltz (Chris Duell), Tom Hood (Pete Whitaker), Mary Hood (Lucy Lamb, a delicious name for someone playing a shepherdess) and Granny Hood (Paul Barrington) – each of whom has their own take on keeping the laughs coming and on interacting with the audience. Pete Whitaker is particularly good as the chavviest of chavs and is a natural mover on stage, while Paul Barrington carries off the dame's part with great confidence, helped by a series of ever more fantastical costumes; the jodhpurs and jockey's cap are particularly memorable.

Coral Norton, at only 17, makes a pretty and sparky Red Riding Hood. Her would-be devourer, the Big Bad Wolf (Mike Young) is, if anything, rather too suave and almost likeable; we boo and hiss him, of course, but our hearts aren't really in it. We also cheer enthusiastically for Fiona, the forest fairy, who as played by Debra Crowton shows more than a hint of Joyce Grenfell and has a rare rapport with the audience.

It is a lovely twist to the script that the principal boy, Jason the woodcutter, who is normally played either in fishnet tights and a short tunic or by a virile young hunk (not both), is here portrayed as a civil servant in dark suit and bowler hat. Chris Moore throws himself into the part but whether the problem is his diction or a dodgy amplification system, his lines are often difficult to hear.

The perennial headache of too few men in the chorus is evident, but in this production it really doesn't matter as the (mostly) ladies of the chorus look beautiful – the dame does not have the monopoly on lovely costumes – and sing well in some impressive ensemble numbers, notably 'We will survive'. In fact, musical director Ian Carter brings the best out of his singers throughout.

All the traditional elements of panto are here, including the dozen or so children who go on stage to help sing 'Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?' and who on the first night were in serious danger of stealing the show despite the excellence of the cast.

There were times on the first night when the pace seemed to drag, and the cast might have been better served by writer John Morley if he had tightened up the dialogue in several places and dropped one or two numbers: at two hours forty minutes (including the interval), the production could lose twenty minutes and be the better for it. But the pleasant abiding memory is of excited children's cries of 'He's behind you' and 'Don't pick the flowers, go straight to Granny's' – which is exactly as it should be after a panto.

John Newth
Scene One

Red Riding Hood

HIGHCLIFFE Charity Players' experience shines through in their 40th pantomime – a slick and amusing version of the traditional children's tale.

Their telling of Red Riding Hood's battle with the Big Bad Wolf is no average amateur performance but a showcase of their members' impressive talents.

The villagers of Trumpeting-on-the-Marsh are determined to get the better of the wicked wolf. But with gormless farmhands Nutz and Bolts, self-styled King of the Chavs Tom Foolery and helpless shepherdess Mary Hood in their midst, this is no easy task.

Coral Norton is impressive in the lead role and has a powerful singing voice that made light work of some testing musical numbers.

Mike Young is a convincing wolf, scary enough to prompt plenty of boos and hisses but intriguing rather than terrifying the children.

And Pete Whitaker was my personal favourite as Ali G wannabe Tom Foolery. He had real fun with the role and coped masterfully with the odd hitch.

The cast acted, sang and danced superbly but were let down slightly by a script that, for me, was over-long.

The first half alone ran to an hour and 20 minutes - unquestionably good value for money - but perhaps a bit much for younger children.

Melanie Vass
Bournemouth Daily Echo