The Scarlet Pimpernel

BBC - Cambridgeshire - Entertainment - On Stage - ADC Theatre - The Scarlet Pimpernel Review
See also: Poster | reviews (November 2001)

Lloyd Wood has been president of Cambridge University Musical Theatre Society, where he directed West Side Story.

This year, the Cambridge Footlights pantomime is a refreshing take on the tale of The Scarlet Pimpernel.

With everything that you could possibly hope to expect from a pantomime, except a comedy wallpapering scene, this year's Footlights/ADC pantomime is truly inspired.

Like one of the bodices that adorned the stage, the show is full to bursting with song, dance, audience participation, mistaken identity, a paper thin plot and cross-dressing. But what makes it special is that amongst all the traditional elements of panto is something very different. Namely a tight script from Day Macaskill and Ed Weeks that I found to be really - and not just groaningly - funny.

The show opens with the handsome hero Humphrey undergoing psychotherapy - a great original touch. Maybe if Aladdin had forked out on the same treatment he could have saved himself a lot of time and effort and not listened to genies in lamps.

Dan Stevens as Humphrey and Sam Hodges as Francois put in excellent performances as the handsome hero and his somewhat idiotic sidekick who must win the heart of the fair maiden. They were perfect foils for each other with elements of Hugh Laurie's 'Blackadder' Prince Regent rising to the surface every now and then. And while their presence on the stage lit it up, it positively exploded whenever Lloyd Wood as Hilda came on. As the traditional dame he provided just the right mixture of ham and coquettish charm to be the guardian of feisty heroine Lucy, played with vigour by Susanna Cousins.

Another highlight was the musical numbers. Apart from the well-drilled and exuberant song and dance routines, the music was a refreshing change from the usual pantomime fare of the latest chart tunes. The original compositions from composer Ed Weeks (again!) were suitably rousing and cleverly seemed to nod towards and satirise the big West End hits of the past few years. Les Mis was the most obvious but towards the end, Francois in his mask, singing to his angel, bore a spooky resemblance to the Phantom - albeit without the chandelier!

However, whilst the large ceiling decoration might have been missing, the set seemed to consist of just about every other piece of scenery in the Western world. This would be my only complaint.

The time spent moving bits of set on and off the stage made the scene changes less than seamless and caused the cast and the show in general to lose their momentum. But it was only at these points, coupled with a number of first night technical failures, that you remembered that you were watching an amateur production.

It is therefore all credit to a strong and talented cast that they worked well together and pressed on through their difficulties with enthusiasm and vigour to ensure that the production was a success, and provide a hugely enjoyable and entertaining evening for their audience. Next time, just get a few more stage crew!