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Review: Loddon Players' pantomime never fails to delight

PUBLISHED: 11:30 23 January 2017 | UPDATED: 11:56 23 January 2017

Loddon Players are performing Pinocchio the pantomime.

Picture: Nick Butcher

Loddon Players are performing Pinocchio the pantomime. Picture: Nick Butcher

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The annual Loddon pantomime has become a fixture in the town's calendar over the past 40 years, a much looked forward to entertainment to brighten the cold dark nights of January as each New Year gets under way.

Pauline Mason as the pink fairy, Ruth Dunning as the blue fairy and Gina Buntrock as the bad fairy. Picture: Nick ButcherPauline Mason as the pink fairy, Ruth Dunning as the blue fairy and Gina Buntrock as the bad fairy. Picture: Nick Butcher

It never fails to delight large audiences each year, and this one is no exception as the Players tackle their own version of Pinocchio, one they have never staged over the past four decades.

It is a colourful, zany show, full of good singing, good dancing, plenty of local quips, and a range of young and old performers in the cast of nearly 40.

They include 13-year-old Mia Cuskeran as Pinocchio, well cast, well costumed (particularly the nose!), and filling the role with great confidence and delivering her lines well. At the other end of the spectrum is Maureen Larkin, a veteran of all 40 previous shows and bringing her experience, timing and fun to the role of Rosa.

In that she is alongside Anthony Bunting, making a welcome return to the Dame role as Nora Cricket and filling it with all the control, presence and facial expressions it demands.

Young performers in Pinocchio.

 Picture: Nick ButcherYoung performers in Pinocchio. Picture: Nick Butcher

Graham Orpet is Jiminy Cricket, who gets good response from the audience, and the energetic and natural actor and singer Christian Lovick excels as the evil Stromboli, who tries to kidnap Pinnochio.

There are good support performances from the other main members of the cast – Pauline Mason and Jude Bisset as Pink Fairy and Blue Fairy, Gina Buntrock, who relishes the role as the wicked Griselda and puts everything into it, Katie Hamilton as Figaro the lively cat (Maddie Hamilton on other performances), Peter Semain as Geppetto, Pinocchio’s creator, and Harry Browne and Shane Baxter as Dilly and Dally.

And there is 10-year-old Poppy Collison as the rebellious Lampwick, side-kick of Stromboli, who shows she could be a valuable member of the Players in the long term.

Scenery and costumes all bear the impressive hallmark established by the Players over the years.

Some of the Loddon Players cast in Pinocchio. Picture: Nick ButcherSome of the Loddon Players cast in Pinocchio. Picture: Nick Butcher

The Funky Feet School of Dance and Performing Arts are there again for some well-choreographed dance routines created by Vicky Codling. They comprise Jude Bisset, Lucy Brandon, Steve Burton, Poppy Collinson, Katie Hamilton, Maddy Hamilton, Abby Harper Bourne, Ellie McLoughin, Posy Mead, Amy Skepelhorn, Lauren Sterling, Emily Storey, Lucy Sutton, Sharon Sutton and Harvey Wick, while the Panto Babes are Tilly Bell, Teagan Doughty, Rebecca Jay, Imogen Bolderston, Zara Lovick and Alice Peck.

The show, directed by Simon Peck and Vicky Codling, has its final performances Friday and Saturday evening at 7.30pm, with a matinee show on Saturday at 2.30pm. It is being performed at Lecture Hall in George Lane, Loddon. For tickets call Hazel on 01508 520162.

TERRY REEVE

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