LONG ASHTON, BRISTOL
LONG ASHTON COMMUNITY CENTRE
THE PIRATES OF PORTISHEAD
65 minutes – 1 interval
REVIEW – CORMAC RICHARDS – 7 JULY 2019
‘Bristol Pantomime Productions Ltd are a new professional theatre company that tour around the UK producing high quality shows for children and adults alike’, so says a note in the programme for this production of ‘The Pirates of Portishead’.
Having been invited to review this show – and I have no concerns about pantomimes being performed in July – I was looking forward to seeing a new company really make their mark in what appeared to be a one-off matinee performance. The omens were not good when the curtain was delayed for 15 minutes to wait for a party of over 50 to arrive – they never did, and so there can only have been about 35 or so in the audience.
Sorry to say, the missing party may be relieved they were spared from 65 minutes of this substandard show.
Pantomimes are huge business in this country, from the big budgets and glitzy glamour of the big London Palladium shows down to regional theatres and village halls, the genre has rarely been stronger. Just down the road in Somerset, an annual awards ceremony takes place where 40 pantomimes fight it out for a variety of gongs. Quality varies, but it can be very high.
Bristol Pantomime Productions obviously work off a small budget and this production has a cast of just four, one set, and few props. Not a problem if they are all excellent.
A successful pantomime starts with a good script – sadly this one was not. If there was much of a plot, then it got lost fairly early on and it lacked humour and invention. Written by the Jack Turner, the founder of the company, it has obviously got a local focus, but I would suggest it is completely re-written.
The set comprised a colourful, pirate-themed design, cleverly displayed on pull-up banners these were augmented by a shark’s head and a treasure chest. Costumes were fine and served the purpose, though the Dame’s could have been more inventive and flamboyant.
There is no room in a pantomime for mumbling of lines and there was far too much of this. Stumpy Sue, the Dame, delivered most of his lines far too quickly, to the point that they could not be understood. There were other asides and upstage delivery which meant that too much of the dialogue was lost. Cue pickup was often slow, and some ponderous delivery suggested lack of rehearsal.
Engagement with the audience is also very important – it doesn’t take too much effort to get children call things out and it is unfortunate that the audience was so small. Songs were performed to backing tracks and movement to the music (I cannot say dance) was unimaginative. Sound and lighting were variable in quality.
The aforementioned, Jack Turner, also played Dame; built like a prop forward, he lacked any finesse in the role. The three other performers did the best they could with the poor script and sketchy direction. Turner also directed the show – I am afraid that it suffered as a result, some of the staging was sloppy – masking with only four people on stage should never happen. Some of the action seemed inconsequential and plain odd and was lacking a cohesive core even with such a short running time. Act One ended in virtual silence and Act Two ended with a whimper.
The audience joined in as asked and applauded politely. There were no shouts of ‘More’. I am not sure they got what they hoped for.
Small-scale entertainment companies are to be praised for bringing theatre to local communities, but as a professional outfit I would expect the quality to be far greater. This show should go back to the drawing board and the founder of the group should look for the involvement of people who are better at some of the jobs that he is currently undertaking.
A thoroughly disappointing production with little to recommend it.
CAPTAIN FEATHERFINGER – ROBYN SASS
POLLY CRACKER – CHERYL ROWLANDS
PEGLEG PETE – KEZIAH J WATTS
STUMPY SUE – JACK TURNER
WRITTEN & DIRECTED BY JACK TURNER
SOUND – MONSTER EVENTS
LIGHTING – LONG ASHTON COMMUNITY CENTRE