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Chipperfield Theatre Group – The Pompeii Panto

2nd of June 2007

No sooner had the likes of Su Pollard taken off her tights and Christopher Biggins stopped rubbing his magic lamp, Chipperfield Theatre Group were donning their togas for the Pompeii Panto. It was a brave attempt to revitalise the genre and even if,
ultimately, it didnt quite hit the heights
of their superlative recent efforts, there was still plenty to admire. Nobody more than the star of the show – Dame Simon Phillips, who it seemed, had been waiting for his chance to ham it up in a frock for years. His enthusiasm, reminiscent of Gunner Beaumont from “It aint half hot Mum”, was that of a man whose lifes destiny it was to entertain us with his one man drag act.
Elsewhere, the usual parade of goodies and baddies (mostly) resplendent in wonderful costumes dutifully played out the formulaic plot against a splendid
backdrop which had swallowed up a healthy slice of the budget. But Rob Hine was probably wondering why there was no money left in the kitty for him. As, despite his best efforts, Senator Bilius lacked an element of menace inherent in some of the better known panto villains.
Pleasingly, Paul Instrall gave his camp snob routine another outing as Nero while the stooges, Anne Pinkus and John Oglesby gave us an idea of what the offspring of The Chuckle Brothers and The Krankies might be like. Im certain we have not seen the last of Mark Whitewood either. His cameo as the aptly named Hilarious went down very well.
So although the song and dance routines lacked their usual polish and the script wasnt brilliant, there were enough highlights – the riotous banquet of Bilius, the fashion parade and another clever use of ultra violet light amongst them, to give more than just the
blatantly plugged sponsors their moneys worth.
Finally, its worth noting in the cast list that there was a nod to the future as younger
relations of established cast members took the romantic leads. Amba Bottril made a
decent fist of the fey princess but perhaps the reason for Luke Phillips surly expression was an awareness that, with tremendous performances such as these, Simon is not quite ready to hand over the acting baton just yet.
Jason Cox

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