Show Reviews and Awards
W SCROOGE THE PANTO Performed by HATS (Hockwold Amateur Theatrical Society)
Directed by Jill Enefer 30 November 2013
One has to be impressed with the effort taken by HATS to turn their village hall into an auditorium, for they not only build their stage complete with proscenium arch but also manage to create a warm and friendly atmosphere too.
Scrooge the Panto is a new one on me but this NODA script has much potential and director Jill Enefer set out to make the most of it. Sticking (almost) to Dickens's famous storyline for A Christmas Carol, this version has his counting house as a factory full of downtrodden workers with an even more, if it were possible, downtrodden factory foreman by the name of Bob Cratchit. Scrooge still mean, miserable and visited by ghosts and spirits is now also dogged by Nora Carrott the factory’s formidable tea lady.
I must commend the chorus members - both adults and children. They were all so absolutely loving their involvement that one could not help but join in their enjoyment. They all did a good job of carrying out what was required of them on the small stage and there were quite a lot of them too! Richard Brighton’s Scrooge could have been a bit ‘meaner’ but that didn’t stop us greeting him with loud boos at his every appearance.
There were several good supporting performances notably by Faith Quinlisk, in fine voice as Polly, Zak McGarry as Scrooge’s nephew Frederick, Mila Ottevanger splendid as the Ghost of Christmas Past and Brenda Willison suitably boisterous as the Ghost of Christmas Present. This is to take nothing away from the members of the lovely Cratchit family led by Stephen Enefer as Bob, nor from the numerous ghosts and phantoms including the chain rattling Graham Whitaker as Jacob Marley. However, panto stands (or falls) on the shoulders on the dame and Gary Sander as Nora Carrott did a good job. His rapport with the audience was excellent and why everyone thinks it funny when someone falls over has always mystified me but the fact is - it is - and Ms Carrott did it so well.
Some excellent costumes and stage cloths/scenery added to the show but the piece de resistance was the NIFF (Nora’s Incredible Food Factory) machine which turned scraps of food into a huge roast Christmas Dinner - eventually! HATS obviously have an all “inclusive” policy with their casts as every single member was given their ‘moment’.
Well done director Jill Enefer and to all involved with this show. Although it may have lacked pace in places we still had a good laugh and an enjoyable evening.
Julie Petrucci Regional Representative NODA East District 4S.
Review: HELLO DOLLY! Hockwold Amateur Theatre Society.
25 April 2014 Hello, Dolly!
(book by Michael Stewart and music & lyrics by Jerry Herman) first opened in New York City in January 1964 going on to win 10 Tony awards. It became one of Broadway's longest-running musicals, was made into a film and has remained a favourite with amateur companies for many years. Musicals are a real challenge for any company calling as they do for large casts. Coupled with this they need good singers who can also act. This makes big demands on a company so hats off (no pun intended) to HATS for taking up this challenge.
Hockwold Village Hall has more than its fair share of limitations but this doesn’t appear to bother this lovely friendly society one bit. Even before the curtain goes up you have to admire the attention to detail given by those responsible for creating the front of house and technical set ups. One of the biggest challenges HATS have - or should I say one of the many? - is lack of wing space. This fact is brought home throughout the show with exits and entrances which slow things up considerably. This then has the knock-on effect of a lack of pace throughout the production. Having to build their stage and rig proscenium arch and curtains sometimes precludes the smooth running of tabs and swipe cloths but nothing much seems to phase the stage crew who carry out scene changes as swiftly as they can. I was much impressed with the costumes provided by the skill of The Sewing Circle ladies, particularly those of the leading lady which all appeared to fit her like a glove, plus the gorgeous hats. The lighting design and operation too was extremely good which, together with the sound effects, added that little bit extra. Jill Enefer played the title role and you always get what you expect from this artiste, an excellent performance coupled with a marvellous voice. Among the large cast, the second leads were admirably portrayed by Matthew Izzard as Cornelius Hackl and Zak McGarry as Barnaby Tucker in their roles as the hopeful-suitors. These two worked well together: Mr Izzard especially has an excellent voice, the ballad; It Only Takes a Moment was extremely pleasant to listen to. There was good support from among the smaller roles as well; although Mila Ottevanger as Minnie Fay needed to slow down the delivery of her dialogue and Sue Nairn as the widow Irene Molloy who, although she has a nice singing voice was at times difficult to hear when speaking particularly in the restaurant scene. Well-paired were Dominic Bunten (Ambrose Kemper) and Sue Perry (Ermengarde) the couple forbidden to marry by Ermengarde’s uncle Mr. Vandergelder played by Stephen Enefer. The chorus, though well-rehearsed and tuneful lacked volume. I fully appreciate the disadvantages of the venue and applaud long and loud the skill of pianists John Ramsbottom and Dianne Ogley-Richardson, but this show needed the support of some percussion: Put on Your Sunday Clothes was excellent as was When the Parade Passes By but it just needed the lift a percussion beat would have added. Well done to the waiters and waitresses in The Harmonia Gardens Restaurant scene where the famous title song Hello, Dolly! did not disappoint and was added to by the extra support from the audience. This show was no small undertaking for HATS. I understand it has long been an ambition of director Sue Sander to do this show and well done to everyone who put in so much effort and enthusiasm to bring it to fruition. Julie Petrucci Regional Representative NODA East: District Four South.
HOCKWOLD AMATEUR THEATRICAL SOCIETY (H.A.T.S.) Aladdin DIRECTOR Gary Sander MUSICAL DIRECTOR Dianne Ogley-Richardson CHOREOGRAPHY Uncredited VENUE Hockwold Community Centre DATE Saturday November 29th 2014
It is never anything less than an honour to be asked to review any NODA production, but this was the first time I had been asked to substitute for the wonderful Julie Petrucci. Being off my own patch I had expected to be travelling further than usual, but in truth, the thriving village of Hockwold was closer than some of my own Area 4 North locations. The group on show this night were H.A.T.S (Hockwold Amateur Theatrical Society) and it was their yearly pantomime, which saw a 2014 outing for Richard Gauntlett’s Aladdin. Hockwold Community Centre turned out to be quite a grand affair and Julie had warned me that the entire set (Including the stage had to be moved in, assembled, and moved back out again after the run. This led me to expect a rather temporary affair which turned out to be a long way from the truth. The stage looked every inch (And there quite a few inches of it) a permanent fixture and the superb condition of the facade led me to believe that it had been completely refurbished for this production. It transpired that it is always completely re painted prior to any production. Impressive ! The scenery used during the production was also of a high standard and perfectly suited for the story. Front of house staff were plentiful, and all in black livery with HATS clearly marked which gave a very professional look to everything in the auditorium. The sound and lighting equipment was all tidy and I spent a good twenty minutes chatting to the society members on duty. The story itself needs no retelling, least of all by me, and no sooner had the lights gone down and I was transported to Old Peking (Pekkin and Pekin in the program but I think they meant Peking). Costumes were stunning and I take off my hat (Pun intended) to the six named ladies of the sewing circle for what must have been hours of outstanding work. Complimentary makeup and hair were all fine, even if the male lead did have trouble keeping his in place (Ellnett, always a good stand by!) Lighting by Danielle Steen and Adam Flores was everything it should be and sound by Wayne Askew was flawless. The chorus were not so big as to crowd the stage, and the six components of it, did a little choreography which was all the space really allowed. In the supporting roles there was a nice showing from Max Blake and Tom Bucknall as PC’s Ping and Pong supervised at all times by Denise Vaughan as Sargent Bang. I must say I laughed every time they came on with the blue lights on their headgear flashing wildly. It honestly never got tired ! Megan Askew was always in the right place as the Hand Maiden and Richard Brighton had plenty of stage presence as the Emperor. His opening gags relating to translation definitely hit the spot. In the more prominent roles Mila Ottevanger did some good work as Princess Not-SoShy and Sue Sander and Allison Forman make two half’s of an excellent Genie. Zak McGarry was all about as romantic lead Aladdin, never taking himself, or the production too seriously and superb Dominic Bunten worked tirelessly to bring an outstanding characterisation as evil Abanazar. There is truly nothing like a dame and Director Gary Sandler made an excellent job of Widow Twanky. A confident, relaxed style that carried the story along perfectly. I always save the penultimate paragraph for the member of the cast that made the most impression on me and in this production it was wonderful Jill Enefer as comedy lead Wishee Washee. She was absolutely on top of every gag and just looked like she owned the stage. I did wish there had been a few more gags for her to work with, but all that were available hit the spot with an enthusiastic and good sized audience. My sincere congratulations to Director Gary Sander for a tidy piece of direction, and a great family pantomime that was prompt free and great fun from start to finish. The Hockwold Amateur Theatrical Society made me so welcome. I was able to meet everyone during a complete tour of the facilities, as they began the long job of ripping it all down until next time. Thanks also to Julie P for the opportunity, these were such nice people and it reminded me what Am Dram is truly about and how important pantomime is in the development of a love of theatre. Incidentally I got sixteen in the spot the difference on the back of the program … were there any more ? Stephen P E Hayter (Regional Representative NODA Eastern Region – Area 4 North)
HOCKWOLD AMATEUR THEATRICAL SOCIETY (H.A.T.S.)
Don’t Fly With Me
Hockwold Community Centre
Thursday April 16th 2015
Clearly, I had not made a complete fool of myself last year, as lovely Julie Petrucci had asked me to cover a second time at the Hockwold Amateur Theatre Society (H.A.T.S) while she took a well-deserved holiday. I was delighted to be returning after being made so welcome at this groups pantomime last year. Move forward 5 months, and the welcome was just as warm.
Hockwold Village Hall was pleasingly three quarters full for this year’s offering ‘Don’t Fly With Me’. I knew it was an in-house piece of writing, and it sounded for all the world like a play, but actually is was a format that seems to all but have disappeared with a theme and loose story that string together relevant songs with dance in many cases. The story was centred at Hockwold International Airport which, if there was really such a thing, would make Julie Petrucci’s next holiday flight a doddle. We find that bad weather has forced several major flights to divert from Heathrow and Gatwick to sleepy Hockwold-Cum-Wilton. Only the three main characters were named in what turned out to be a delightful ensemble piece.
The set was immaculate just as it was on my last visit, with a new coat of paint externally and the suggestion of an airport lounge internally. It looked great with some nice comic touches including the “Costalot Coffee” with some premium pricing on a selection of Carrot based snacks! Sound (Wayne Askew) was via backing tracks and lighting (Jill Enefer and Fred Ellison) was everything you would have wanted. Make-up and hair were fine and the costumes (Carol Haigh, Joan Ellison, Janice Whitaker, Kath Brown, Janet Strickland and Betty Golding) - The entire Sewing Circle named- were …. very much as they were last time, absolutely stunning. I can’t begin to imagine how many (wo)man hours had been invested.
There were many highlights from the 40 strong company and, whilst I can name them, the performers were not individually credited … I thought that was charming, and as I understand better, the mind-set of HATS, in keeping with their ethos. In no particular order I liked ‘I Am What I Am’ (there are no words to describe the delivery of this piece … ask my newly appointed therapist) and the Spice Girls routine certainly boasted the tightest choreography. ‘Purple Rain’ and ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ really hit the spot from one of the groups best singers and ‘Walking in Memphis’ featured the same gentleman in a hilarious walk through as Elvis. When an American plane is diverted into the countryside there was a nice collection on States-themed songs including a delightful piece I was not familiar with about Manhattan. The lead female vocalist (she knows who she is even if I don’t) had the most wonderful singing voice and easy delivery.
With no names, no pack drill, penultimate paragraph honours go to the gentleman on the guitar and the female singer who “busked” ‘Leaving On A Jet Plane’ to the very highest standard. It was, for me a least, the take home performance of the night.
Congratulations to Director, Tracey Askew and her team for a great night’s entertainment, and to those responsible for turning the hall into an airport - the attention to detail was wonderful and the stewardess costumes a triumph. I look forward to
the 2015 pantomime … and the possibility that Julie just might fancy a winter skiing holiday !
Stephen P E Hayter
(Regional Representative NODA Eastern Region Area 4 North)
HOCKWOLD AMATEUR THEATRICAL SOCIETY (H.A.T.S.)
Beauty and the Beast
Hockwold Community Centre
Thursday November 26th 2015
It was indeed a very strange set of circumstances that led me to that ‘Oasis of Culture’, The Hockwold Community Centre. Local NODA representative (the delightful) Julie Petrucci was knee-deep in other productions and I had not been able to fly to a certain Egyptian tourist trap due to …. circumstances. So there I was, in a nearly full auditorium contemplating Alan P. Frayn’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’.
I will not insult your intelligence by even attempting to remind you of the story. Prince, Beast, rose, pretty girl … blah, blah, blah. The story followed closely the Disney version of events with references to the original story and the names changed to protect the … copy write. Front of house were well turned out as usual with the liveried tops that look so good. Once again, housekeeping and raffle execution was as theatrical as everything that came before or after it !
The set and scenery (uncredited) was excellent, with plenty of colour and cleverly constructed to allow for (relatively) quick changes. Sound (Denise Vaughan and Megan Askew) did everything it needed to, with all cues bang on the money. In a similar vein, Lighting (Danielle Steen and Tony Waterson) was completely appropriate and executed without incident. I am never sure if the musical backing is arranged and recorded or performed live but either way Dianne Ogley-Richardson’s arrangements were excellent, and the performance (uncredited, but could also have been Mrs Ogley-Richardson) were very much the same.
The chorus were plentiful, enthusiastic and most had a full grasp on the lyrics. Choreography (Viv Morris) made full use of the limited space with plenty of interesting moves, well performed by all. In the supporting roles, I enjoyed Andrew Gookey as sinister asylum Major Domo, Monsieur Le Fou and Gary Sander was all about as Narcissistic alpha male, Gustave. Richard Brighton was as camp as a day-trip to Millets in his characterisation of Beauty Salon owner, Marcel assisted greatly by WAG sidekick Monique (Cerys Vaughan). The latter gave a performance of great promise for one so young.
It wasn’t very far into proceedings that I realised that this production was going to be a notch or two up on previous ones I have seen here, and as comic leads Ermengarde and Esmeralda, Casey and Bertie Sander (you can trust the brand) instantly lifted things to a new level. Superb singing voices and a comic delivery that you could take to the West End. The “All About the Face” number had me crying with laughter and was the undisputed highlight of the show. Graham Whitaker was in fine form as nutty professor and father to Belle, Alphonse and Sue Perry showed her class once again as comedy sidekick, Jacqui.
It seems so obvious, but actually I have never seen the Prince and Beast roles split before, but it worked perfectly on every level. Zak McGarry was well-cast as The Prince with another HATS regular, Dom Bunten, taking over as the Beast. Both were fantastic with Mr Bunten showing some real class as he battled with a cold that left him with a reduced vocal ability - most of the time nobody would have known. What a trooper!
I have seen Amanda Prebula on this stage before and thought what a nice singing voice she had, but the first time she opened her mouth as Belle, the audience were stunned into silence, except for me who let out a very loud “Woah” as she proved why she has sung professionally in the past. A wonderfully sweet characterisation with superb singing and acting to match. Watch out Gary Sander, this girl could get a part in any show within a 50 mile radius of Hockwold!
Penultimate paragraph honours were really difficult to award this time out. It could have been Casey or Bertie Sander and it certainly could have been Amanda Prebula, but I have decided they should go to the incredible Laura Jestico as the maid, Madame Fifi. I think this was the ‘dames’ role but I am fairly sure Mrs Jestico is all woman. She worked so hard throughout the performance and had a powerful delivery and a comic touch that never missed a gag. She also handled the audience participation with complete confidence. In a cast that was knee deep in talent, she still managed to shine.
My profound congratulations to Director, Gary Sander for a tidy piece of work. The Technical direction was difficult to fault and it was only (as is so often the case) the overly long running time that I would list in my criticisms. Even when you are enjoying yourself those chairs can get a little uncomfortable. Well done HATS …. maybe we will meet again … what do you say Julie ?
Stephen P E Hayter
(Regional Representative NODA Eastern Region Area 4 North)
NODA Review 21 April 2016 THE WIZARD OF OZ HATS (Hockwold Amateur Theatrical Society) Hockwold Village Hall. Directed by Tracey Askew and Denise Vaughan Musical Director John Ramsbottom Choreographer: Viv Morris
Based on the famous film this stage version of The Wizard of Oz was a good choice for HATS’ spring show, which made full use of the young members of the society. Technically Hockwold Village Hall is a difficult venue as the company have to build the stage and cable the hall before they can begin to think about performing. All their expertise wasn’t wasted as this was a most colourful production with impressive costumes and colourful backdrops. This show had a relatively young cast and, with a few exceptions, also relatively inexperienced. However the entire cast put their hearts into their performance and were, obviously, enjoying every minute. In the leading role Sue Perry played Dorothy with style and energy. She worked extremely well with her three companions in her search for the Wizard. Max Blake as Scarecrow did a grand job, he has a good delivery and is obviously a young man with potential. A great hit with the audience Matthew Izzard made an excellent Cowardly Lion with good characterisation and stage presence and Andrew Gookey as the Tin Man shone, in more ways than one, in a first-rate performance. All four possess good singing voices and delivered their songs with confidence. The scary Wicked Witch of the West Laura Jestico had such a fearsome shriek I got a bit concerned for her vocal chords. This was a ‘suitably evil’ performance though which elicited the requisite boos from the audience. Viv Morris as the Sorceress of the North had good diction, a nice singing voice, and she looked lovely. Completing the cast of Principals was Dom Bunten who made a very impressive Wizard of Oz. Over the rainbow there were the Munchkins, who all looked splendid. All knew their song and dance routines which were appropriate for both the age groups and restricted space. The Emerald City scene with the splendidly attired Generals instructing the single Private was a missed opportunity for expanding the comedy. I believe the writer’s intention is for the Private to do all the work and the Generals to deliver the orders. It was still funny though. I saw the opening night performance and things could have moved quicker. Conversely, having then seen the lack of space backstage, I reckon everyone did a splendid job. The technical aspects of the show worked well, including the reducing spell and the costumes were brilliant well done to Carol Haigh and The Sewing Circle. Of course with such a large cast it is not possible to mention everyone but suffice it to say each person put in every effort. It was good to see so many younger performers; hopefully they will continue and build on this experience. The cast generally sung the familiar songs well and I am sure MD John Ramsbottom got the best out of everyone. I am positive directors Tracey Askew and Denise Vaughan were proud of you all. Thank you HATS for an enjoyable evening Over the Rainbow. Julie Petrucci Regional Representative NODA East District 4 South
HOCKWOLD AMATEUR THEATRICAL SOCIETY (H.A.T.S.)
Hockwold Community Centre
Friday November 25th 2016
I was (and have been a few times before) delighted to deputise for the lovely Julie Petrucci again this Panto season. Her heavy schedule normally allows me this honour but as I took my seat in the wonderful Hockwold Community Centre with a very passable red wine to hand and still radiating a warm glow from the welcome these guys hand out … I noticed another good reason why JP was absent. This ‘Sleeping Beauty’ was one of hers!
She hadn’t mentioned (and why should she) that the fine burgers at H.A.T.S. had selected a Petrucci and Shinn for their festive offering. Even more bizarrely, I had already seen this script performed in Wisbech and enjoyed it enormously. The Hockwold Community Centre looked lovely, the H.A.T.S. portable staging was freshly painted and the auditorium was almost full of enthusiastic audience members of all ages. The atmosphere here is always electric and this year it seemed even more buzzing than usual. Notable by his absence was H.A.T.S. driving force, Gary Sander, but the updates I received on his health led me to believe that rumours of his death had been at least partially exaggerated! With the main man down, Directorial duties had fallen to Sue Sander and I was sure you could trust the name.
The set (uncredited) was spot on as usual with complimentary lighting (Richard Brighton) and sound (Wayne Askew) doing all that they needed to .., and more. Costumes (Carol Haigh, Joan Ellison, Betty Golding, Kath Brown and Janet Strickland we perfection with some pretty sharp dresses for the dame. Hair (Nicki Holder) and Make Up (Abi Weetman and Brenda Willison) both added greatly to the overall look of this production.
The Chorus were enthusiastic and well-disciplined, helped greatly by perfectly suitable choreography from Viv Morris. In the supporting roles, I enjoyed Harley Bool and Lewis Sismey as the guards Graham and Gordon, Sofie Bradshaw as Victoria and Ben Sullivan as Feathers. Marjorie Bradley and Andrew Gookey were also in fine form as Queen Beryl and King Basil with a great team effort from the fairies, Amethyst (Eleanor Vaughan), Bluebell (Courtney Peckham), Daffodil (Kira Daughenbaugh), Primrose (Hannah Sullivan), Lilac ( Francesca Derbyshire) and Rosebud (Joanne Sullivan), who all put in a really good shift. No weak links, although as Fairy Amethyst, Miss Vaughan was particularly watchable.
In the more prominent roles, there were solid performances from Max Blake as Prince Valiant and Molly Martin as Princess Aurora, who made a particularly good looking couple. I believe I have seen Megan Askew here before and left this year thinking what a lot of potential she had. As the Jester / Secret Agent she had plenty of dialogue and quite a few jokes, all of which she delivered with some style. The same can be said of Mary Sullivan, who was a steady hand at the helm as the Story Teller, keeping things moving along nicely and making sure the audience didn’t lose the plot, she delivered her many lines without hesitation, deviation or perspiration! Choreographer Viv Morris was very much in the thick of the performing end of this pantomime as she did a great job with the part of the very unpleasant, Zelda Blackadder. The air was thick with saliva from the boo and hiss every time she entered or exited and she worked the audience well with the help of a spectacularly gothic costume that really underpinned her characterisation.
Although it may have been before my time, I was told afterwards that Sue Perry has been in many productions over here at Hockwold, this time out she was the misguided sidekick of the baddie, Spaldrick, and what a magnificent job she did. A beautifully crafted characterisation that gave her plenty of scope to maximise the comic possibilities thrown her way.
Penultimate paragraph honours were never in doubt this night as Jill Enefer as Dame Dotty Dooright simply stole the show. Her comic timing was priceless and the way she flirted with some poor bewildered chap in the audience was worth the ticket price alone. Her superb outfits helped a little but it was the sheer professionalism of her performance that had Miss Enefer standing out from the crowd. I left with the distinct impression that she could be doing this for a living.
Congratulations to Director, Sue Sander, for delivering another quality production even when some of the Society’s leading performers were AWOL. Mrs Sander was not only without Mr Sander but the two very talented Sandettes that make up the family Sander were also out of action, that is unless you include bar duty. The importance of which (in my opinion) should not be overlooked. This group are so well received by the local people and the large team of performers, technicians, back stagers and front of house stewards are all so incredibly pleasant it is never anything less than a complete delight to spend time with them. Merry Christmas Hockwold. You have put me very much in the mood!
Stephen P E Hayter
(Regional Representative NODA Eastern Region Area 4 North)
Review: A Little Panto on the Prairie Group: Hockwold Amateur Theatrical Society
Reviewer: DeeDee Doke 2017
The very predictability of pantomimes – the stock characters, the sing-song with children in the audience, the catch phrases – is part of their charm. At the same time, a few surprises and twists in the patented formula can add even greater enjoyment to this wonderful form of entertainment. A Little Panto on the Prairie by Richard Lock received its very first staging in November at the hands of Hockwold Amateur Theatrical Society (HATS), so the society reports, and this quirky pantomime certainly provided an array of surprises – both in the writing and the actual production – on a Friday evening. HATS is the stalwart NODA Award-winning company that builds its own stage at Hockwold’s village hall for each of its productions. This time, the stage provided the platform for action set in the American Old West, with the crise de jour the impending closure of Madame Moonshine’s saloon. The villain of the piece is the evil Sheriff Cactus Jack (a snarling, sneering and very entertaining Viv Morris), who is threatening to shut the saloon by finding sufficient health & safety violations to put the good-hearted dame Madame Moonshine (a loveable Gary Sander) out of business and to then snap up the property. The Sheriff has three henchmen, a ‘mini me’ sheriff (Joanne Sullivan) and the gun-toting Mexican duo of Jose (Bertie Sander) and Hose B (Kaci Sander). (Get the joke?) Of course, the day is saved, the saloon remains the property of Madame Moonshine, and true love is rewarded. No surprises there. But Little Panto had many happy surprises: highly original twists on the traditional comedic henchmen’s roles, diverse & inclusive casting in unexpected roles, some absolutely delightful and clever performances, and beautifully designed and crafted costumes of a professional quality. Directed by Sue Sander, this production offered a refreshing take on gender-neutral casting. For instance, all of the male villains were well played by women such as the ripsnorting Morris. As Jose, the more intrepid of the two henchmen, Bertie Sander delivered an exceptional comedic performance with charismatic confidence and deft comic timing. As Hose B, Kaci Sander held her own as the more dubious and wary of the pair, following Jose’s bumbling lead into disaster after disaster. The smallest villain, Joanne Sullivan put great focus on keeping up with her boss as the silent ‘mini-me’ Sheriff’. The dim-witted comedic hero, Tumbleweed, was also played by a woman, the hardworking and energetic Jill Enefer. In an opposite twist, the typical ‘principal boy’/hero role of Buck the cowboy who would typically be played by a woman was played by a young man (Max Blake), supported by his sidekick Silent Bob (Zak McGarry). And as the Big Chief, a role that generally would have gone to a male, the diminutive Brenda Willison was a supremely commanding presence, exuding authority with her powerful voice and pure gravitas. What a bravura performance! In limited roles, Sue Perry, Mariana Sekira, Lewis Sismey and David White brought sparkle and verve to their time onstage, leaving indelible impressions on the audience. Throughout the casting, the group’s commitment to inclusivity was evident – an exciting and applause-worthy practice that puts HATS on a rung above many larger groups. A stand-out aspect of Little Panto was superb costuming by Carol Haigh, who the group tells me, sews each costume new for each of the society’s shows. My favourite was a patchwork, sequinned and shimmering ensemble complete with zipped jacket, all components matching the purple hair of the wearer, the perfectly pixie-ish Fairy (Megan Askew). And other surprises? Sadly, in a production that generally offered lots of fun and super moments, cast members seemed to be caught by surprise when it came to performing their musical numbers. Noticeable line problems dogged some scenes. Projection proved to be a challenge for all but a handful of cast members. In summary: congratulations to HATS for daring to be different and successfully delivering a colourful and entertaining show that had to – literally --be built from the ground up. Here’s to your 2018 production of Oliver!
I'm a paraNODA
Show report: Oliver! 2018
Society: Hockwold Amateur Theatrical Society
Lionel Bart’s Oliver! might just be the most well-loved British musical of all time, and for good reason: it’s got it all, from a bit of a mystery, lots of children, a battle of good against evil, cracking songs, love gone wrong, and to a (mostly) happy ending.
Today, given the heightened focus in the UK on putting a halt to both people trafficking and the domestic abuse of partners and children, there’s perhaps increased recognition by audiences of the many different levels of darkness of Oliver! That’s despite the ironic
cheeriness of songs like “Consider Yourself,” “It’s A Fine Life” and “Oom Pah Pah”. Again – there’s something for everyone in Oliver!
The plucky Hockwold Amateur Theatrical Society (HATS) recently revived Oliver! for its Spring production, demonstrating once again an indomitable ‘the show must go on’
approach and flashes of brilliance that have earned it a loyal following and tonnes of good will in its community. Tracey Askew directed.
The company’s pluckiness was manifest in its young Oliver, played with solemn gravitas by the sweet-faced, sweet-voiced Madeleine Davis. For this little performer, a major acting challenge throughout the show was pretending to stay a few steps ahead of other
characters who had to be chasing her around the diminutive stage. To her credit, she succeeded most of the time!
Entertaining comedic moments were provided by the hard-working and funny Sue Perry in a memorable turn as the Widow Corney and Gary Sander, a natural fit in the role of Mr Bumble complete with gorgeous mutton chops and an air of unshakeable pomposity.
Andrew Gookey was a shaggy, creepy Fagin – albeit a little too well-washed and clean! – with Ashley Sismey a suitably threatening Bill Sykes, sadly minus his canine companion, Bullseye. As the doomed good-time girl Nancy and paramour of Bill Sykes, Viv Morris’s
interpretation created a character nearly as fearsome and threatening as Sykes himself – one wondered early on if Nancy would get the better of Sykes in this production in their dance of death on London Bridge.
In other roles, Megan Askew was a pixie-like Artful Dodger, David White successfully navigated several parts including Mr Sowerberry, Mary Sullivan exuded maternal warmth and comfort as Mrs Bedwin, and the twinkly-eyed Finley Peckham was a charming and
mischievous Charley Bates. Kudos to Vanessa Wilkens and Ben Sullivan for their sung contributions.
Unfortunately, two young girls in featured speaking parts were so softly spoken they could not be heard a few rows back in the audience.
A key ingredient in HATS’s success is its costumer Carol Haigh, along with her four-woman sewing crew. Sumptuous, beautifully tailored costumes captured the looks of the time, and suited each character precisely. Fagin’s long green coat, the orphans’ little suits, dresses worn by the flower sellers, and Mr Bumble’s ensemble provided just a few
examples of the deft artistry at work here.
Another fine technical success was the London Bridge backdrop, which was seen only in the show’s final moments, but provided a spookily atmospheric setting for the show’s climax. Fog added to the effectiveness.
It can’t be emphasised enough that HATS deserve a loud round of applause for their approach to diversity and inclusiveness. This group has the best track record for onstage D&I that I’ve seen. Keep up the great work.
HATS’ Oliver! delivered an enjoyable afternoon of entertainment.
HATS – Snow White – Nov 2018
Mirror, mirror on the wall – who’s the fairest of them all?
As we all know, the legendary answer to that question is “Snow White”. And we also know her evil queen stepmother is never going to buy in to that response. Nevertheless we never tire of the struggle between good and bad playing out in this tale, which remains an all-time favourite of
young and young in spirit -- especially during pantomime season when the combination of goodness, evil, a rosy-cheeked damsel in distress, a charming prince, an extravagantly bewigged
dame, and seven small magical people is irresistible.
Hockwold Amateur Theatrical Society (HATS) opted for the more traditionally-themed panto Snow White this year after staging the often riotously funny, Wild West-set A Little Panto on the Prairie
in 2018. However, while Snow White itself is traditional, a few twists in this version by Jack Northcott provide the storyline with new characters and scenarios to boo and cheer.
Directed by Gary Sander, who also takes on dame duties, Snow White takes place in the Germanic village of Meinfahrt where lies the castle of wicked Queen Malevolent, near the Frozen Forest and a diamond mine.
Not liking the answer from her mirror about the identity of the most beautiful in the land, Queen Malevolent calls on a hitman named Heinrich to sort out her stepdaughter Snow White and Snow
White’s secret crush Prince Charles once and for all. Getting in the way of both the goodies and the baddies are the laundry mistress Dame Nora Virus and her son Muddles, the latter being besotted with Snow White. The hapless Fairy Apple Blossom tries to gin up an audience-alarm
system to help her save the goodies of the piece from harm, and the seven dwarves hide Snow White in their cabin from the baddies after a hard day in the diamond mine. Needless to say, all is well in the end; Queen Malevolent winds up working as a cleaner and Dame Nora Virus even ends
up with a suitor, Heinrich the hitman who sees the error of his ways.
Enthusiastically performed by familiar, returning and new faces at HATS, the production was well rehearsed, beautifully costumed as always, and featured a highly diverse and inclusive cast.
(I had to smile at the inclusion of a 6-footer playing a dwarf.)
Sue Perry was an exuberant Queen Malevolent, with Andrew Gookey a sometimes goofy, sometimes sharp Heinrich sporting a very dapper black fedora with a hat band in the colours of the German flag. Countering their villainy was Kira Daughenbaugh as sweet Snow White, Harry
Carr as her befuddled Prince Charles, and director Gary Sander irrepressible as the batty Dame Nora Virus. David White was a charming Muddles, Dame Nora’s son, and Mary Sullivan bestowed upon Fairy Apple Blossom a motherly, nurturing spirit.
The dwarves’ ranks delivered enjoyable performances, including a commanding Dimitri Lambo as Sarge, Finley Peckham as a bright-eyed Giggles, Fran Bool as Blondie, David Sismey as Hippy and Graham Whitaker as Oldie.
An imaginative but uncredited performance came from the actor playing a decorative suit of armour who cleverly and subtly – without saying a word -- won our attention away from the identifiable performers during a scene in the Queen’s castle.
Special effects loomed large in this production, and they worked well, enhancing the onstage action.
This tried-and-true story of fairy tale heroines, heroes and villains delighted its local audience and, judging by the dancing children in the audience at show’s end, had won new recruits to appear in next year’s panto production.
DeeDee Doke –
Assistant Regional Representative NODA East District 4S
Production: Alice in Wonderland- Dec 2019
Society: Hockwold Amateur Theatrical Society (HATS)
Reviewer: DeeDee Doke
Both psychedelic fantasia and fairy-tale, Alice in Wonderland presents an audience with a catalogue of the most unimaginable creatures in fiction. The challenge for performers staging Alice is to explore and expose these phantasmagorical literary creations to the nth
degree – and a collection of madcap and zany actors unleashed on characters like the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit, the Caterpillar and the Dormouse took audiences on a wild, crazy and laugh-filled ride at Hockwold Amateur Theatrical Society
(HATS)’s production of Limelight Scripts’ Alice in Wonderland.
This being a pantomime, a dame was essential, along with a villain additional to the Queen of Hearts, and a ‘joker’ is needed too. So Dame Millicent is installed as the mother of Alice in this rendering, a Knave of Spades is the extra villain, and Wally is the joker, the clown
navigating the heroes – accidentally of course – through the dangers and jokes to the final curtain.
Norfolk’s HATS is something of a repertory company. Familiar faces populate each production, generally rotating through a variety of parts throughout the years, and it’s clear that HATS has a dedicated core of diverse volunteers for whom these annual pantomimes
are a real joy to perform. Another constant in HATS productions is the extraordinary array of highest-quality costuming by the marvellous Carol Haigh – this show was no exception;
Haigh’s costumes were startlingly beautiful. She’s arguably the finest costumier in NODA East, with a top support crew of Joan Ellison, Betty Golding, Kath Brown, and Janice Whitaker.
This production also featured beautifully detailed backdrops and cloths, created and executed by director Gary Sander. Lovely to look at!
Kira Daughenbaugh was a sweet-faced Alice, leading her mum Dame Millicent (Dom Bunten) through forests and tea parties and castles. Bunten was an (appropriately!) over-the-top dame, in contrast to young Kira, who often could not be heard. Jill Enefer brought her usual high energy and good humour to foolish Wally, and worked hard to get the audience going, which she accomplished with panache. As the villainous Knave of Spades,
director Gary Sander channelled a lisping John Malkovich into the (fake) leather and spikes attire, simpering his way through evil guidance to comical henchmen Tweedle Dum (Suzie Sander) and Tweedle Dee (Mary Sullivan).
Sarah-Rose Hunt portrayed the Queen of Hearts (of “Off with his head!” notoriety) as a ill-tempered madwoman, with Andrew Gookey as her genial consort, the King of Hearts. David White was a frantic White Rabbit, and Kerri-Ann Linge was the Princess of Hearts to Hannah
Sullivan’s Prince of Diamonds, whose plans to wed may be thwarted by the Knave of Spades’ dastardly plans.
For this reviewer, the show’s highlight was the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party featuring Jo Ward as the Mad Hatter (in a fabulous costume and hat!), Debbie Hunt as the March Hare, and Laila Ashby as a very sleepy Dormouse. This scene makes absolutely no sense, and watching
the players pretend to make sense of the madness of it all was laugh-out loud funny. Also high on the list of delights were the languorous Cheshire Cat performed by an almost unrecognisable Sue Perry and the Caterpillar (Marjorie Bradley).
With this production, HATS appeared to put lessons from previous musical extravaganzas to good use. First, choreographer Viv Morris actually led the large ensemble from out in front of the stage, doing all the steps with a gorgeous smile, guiding her less proficient dancers
behind her through the right steps with the right timing. Second, there seemed to be fewer songs. While pantos are a platform for a large number of well-known songs, the songs are not effective entertainment when singers struggle and the shows can be better off with just a
few musical numbers.
A bright gaiety carried this show through on a spirited wave. The wave could be even more uplifting with tighter pacing, quicker set changes (perhaps with some music between scenes) and microphones for softer-voiced performers. We want to hear it all!
Thank you, HATS, for a fun-filled evening!
NODA Review Nov 2022
The Little Mermaid
HATS (Hockwold Amateur Theatre Society)
Hockwold Community Centre
Directed by Gary Sander
Choreographer Viv Morris
The Little Mermaid swam into Hockwold recently. Not the Disney version but a pantomime
version by Limelight Scripts.
As with all pantomimes we have the good overcoming the bad in this case the evil sea-witch
Octavia (Viv Morris) planned to steal Neptune’s trident and use its power to overthrow him and
rule the world. Meanwhile, Prince Valiant (Hannah Sullivan) has decided to seek adventure on the
high sea, but his ship hits a rock and sinks. Fortunately, all onboard are saved by Fairy Seaweed
(Sue Perry), including fishmonger Sybil Sushi (Dom Bunten)and her son Winkle (David White).
Valiant sees and hears the beautiful Ariel (Summer Barrow), the daughter of Neptune singing, they
meet and, of course, fall in love. However, Octavia wants Valiant for herself and hatches a plan
that sees Ariel give her voice away to her. Just as Octavia looks to have won, Sybil and co ride to
the rescue, with a cunning plan conceived by Fairy Seaweed.
This show certainly lived up to HATS’ known reputation for beautiful costumes. Everyone looked
splendid and particular congratulations on the mermaid costumes. The settings designed by
Director (and Neptune) Gary Sander were good. There were some lovely touches such as the
shells and the fish on the proscenium arch and the seagulls “flying” over the docks and the sea.
There were 14 scenes overall which, of course, meant many scene changes. This slowed things
down somewhat and I wonder why the script didn’t offer the opportunity for some of Octavia and
Seaweed’s pieces to be done front of tabs on the splendid steps whilst some scene changes
were carried out.
The twenty plus cast were kept busy and even those in the Ensemble were called upon to take on
small roles. The Company numbers were, in the main, well done although with so many on a
small stage it gave little opportunity to execute much movement and one or two of the numbers
came over as rather under rehearsed. However, there was some lovely singing particularly from
Summer Barnes and Hannah Sullivan. Hannah also played the guitar. David White (Winkle) too
gave rein to his inner Freddie Mercury as well as supporting his ‘mum’ Sybil Sushi.
The young principal members of the cast did well with particularly fine performances from Ariel
and Valiant. Dom Bunten worked hard as Sybil Sushi ably supported by Eleanor Vaughan as his
assistant Hazel and Viv Morris as Octavia managed to rise above the boos and heckling from
some of the younger members of the audience well. Mentioning individual cast members is
always a hostage to fortune but suffice to say that everyone gave of their personal best.
It was lovely to see HATS back on stage after two years and the almost full house showed that
their loyal local supporters agreed.
Thank you for inviting me to join HATS for the trip “under the sea” with Ariel, The Little Mermaid.
Regional Representative NODA East District Four South