Friday, 15 February 2019

Jousting ostrich was one of many daft delights

THE Shiplake Memorial Hall hosted the 2019 Shiplake and Dunsden Dramatic Organisation pantomime production of the magical and historic tale of Merlin.

Co-directed by Gareth Jones, Rosemary Appleby and Cheryl Milne, the troupe chose a new, less traditional, narrative for this year’s pantomime, but with the same tried and tested formula of eye-popping sets, sound effects, singing, dancing, music, and magic. This was Camelot, but not as we know it.

Mordred the Merciless returns to Camelot in an attempt to usurp the throne from King Arthur by stealing the magical sword Excalibur.

After failing in this endeavour, he kidnaps the King’s one true love, Lady Guinevere, holding her to ransom in the cave of an oh-so-very scary dragon.

Unlike the tale of old, Merlin is ageing and his magic ineffective, and the supposed valiant Knights of the Round Table are anything but.

Guinevere is eventually rescued, not by Knights, but by the Dame and the Jester. Fortunately their only adversary is a baby dragon with a cold, more interested in sleeping than slaying.

Following the pre-rehearsed rescue (with Dame Gertie aptly in the place of the dragon) Mordred challenges King Arthur to a joust to the death, but unfortunately, due to a little known appendix in royal protocol, he has to settle for the King’s champion, the twinkle-toed Sir Dancelot. Chester the Jester has to quickstep in to save the day again, defeating Mordred in a hilarious joust on the back of his trusty ostrich.

The panto had so many memorable performances but it would not have been possible without an 80-strong team of locals, headed by Neill Wilkinson.

From a gorilla magically appearing on a chair to a jousting ostrich, this production of Merlin had all the daft delight that one could hope for. Huzzah!

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