(Babes in the Wood - 2002)
The Willow Tree Theatre
Company continues to demonstrate its amazing versatility with this year's
production of Babes in the Wood. Not a pantomime?! Oh,
yes it is! The many skills of its members are brought together here in
musical, seasonal entertainment; the ultimate blend of song, dance,
satire, spectacle and magic.
There is no such thing
as 'traditional' pantomime. Panto has always been, since the first
recognisable versions (in the seventeen hundreds) an ever-changing,
glorious, eccentric ragbag of talents, topicality and invention and that's
why we, the British, love it.
The characters, in pantomime, are like no others and they arrived there
for very different reasons. The long-legged, thigh-slapping
Principle Boy (though the actress in 'drag' has ancient forebears) was
really introduced so that Victorian Dads could get an eyeful when, in real
life, the flash of an ankle was enough to raise eyebrows and expectations!
The Dame, the man in 'drag' was an even older excuse to enable rude
things to be done to a lady who wasn't really a lady.
The Buttons / Idle Jack character (and, in this production, the two
robbers) is simply the five year old anarchist to be found in every man in
A 'serious' actor has always played the Baddy and even Kean and
Garrick played the villain in pantomime.
Since the early seventeen hundreds when John Rich, an actor who made up
for a speech defect with his physical prowess, played the hero
Harlequin in wordless, acrobatic Christmas shows, pantomime has
continuously changed. In the late eighteenth century the Clown
became the starbecause of Joseph Grimaldi. His catch phrase was
"Here we are again" and his influence continues to this day.
A Hundred years later Dan Leno (1861 - 1904) "The Funniest Man on Earth"
topped the bill at the Drury Lane Theatre each Christmas season for
sixteen years. This was under the governorship of the legendary
Augustus Harris who, tiring of the long, boring moral tales that pantomime
had become, placed music hall stars in his productions, thus providing the
formula that is still used when casting professional pantomime to this
The Willow Tree Theatre Company has, once again, risen magnificently to
yet another challenge. Look out for their next production. Who
knows what they will turn their hand to next?
Enjoy the show!