Event review: Theatre Workshop Coulsdon’s Christmas panto: Dick Turpin

By - Tuesday 13th December, 2016

There’s proper Fanny and Dick available in Croydon this Christmas

Photo by Theatre Workshop Coulsdon, used with permission.

Editorial disclaimer: It’s likely that by choosing to open this review, and perhaps even to consider an evening’s entertainment entitled ‘The Pantomime Adventures of Dick Turpin‘, you declare yourself un-averse to content of a bawdy, or even of a mildly licentious, nature. 

You’re going to get that.

Before reading on, you may also wish to note that mulled wine was consumed, and tweets of a salacious nature dispatched, by the Citizen‘s reviewer whilst contemplating this revelry. 

You have been warned. 

They know how to get you into the festive spirit at Theatre Workshop Coulsdon: a member of front of house staff having an astonishingly good hair day showed us cheerily to our seats and confirmed that we knew where the warm mince pies were. In the interval, we were invited to hail the ‘ice-cream wenches’. Then it’s on with the show, which opens with a medley of Loreena McKennitt’s cover of ‘The Highwayman‘ by Alfred Noyes (both the poem and the song being amongst my favourites things of all time: those boots are, after all, up to the thigh and his breeches sufficiently well-populated as to fit with never a wrinkle) and ‘Yakety Sax‘, better known as the Benny Hill theme tune. That’s how to set a scene, that is.

After that, it’s panto time.

You know what you’re going to get. There’s a game dame (Clemency Turnip, confidently played by Bruce Montgomery) and gender-bending romps with a leading man (Jack Turnip, aka the dastardly Turpin, played by Rosa Ruggeri) who’s clearly a girl. There are his two female love interests (Polly Flinders, played by Lucy-Ann Martin, and Fanny Foldarol-Trumpington played by Rafaella Piscina) who for plot purposes don’t realise their Dick’s not as up for it as he seems but for panto purposes clearly do, and play up knowingly to an audience enjoying the mild frisson of watching them snogging. There’s lots of ‘”oh-yes-he-is! Oh-no-he-isn’t!”, a bit of “behind you!” and two wonderfully black-hearted villains to hiss at: Hanging Judge Jeffries (Paul M. Ford) and Mrs Edna Birch (Chloe Collins).

Give us more satisfying opportunities to boo the bankers

The mulled wine went down a treat and the show (which actually has quite a complex story line but was well told and therefore remained clear throughout) cracked along far faster than Beige Bess, the pantomime horse, could have managed. There was a moment of unscripted danger in the arrival on stage of two impossibly cute small children (no, really) during the ‘volunteers from the audience’ section: it’s a high-risk age group for performance. But these two were sweeties with their big serious eyes, just shy enough to get you worried in case it was all too much for them, then just confident enough to steal the show. Best of all, there were satisfying opportunities to boo the bankers (and make more of these, I say).

Photo by Theatre Workshop Coulsdon, used with permission.

There were also two stand-out performances: Paul M. Ford’s Judge Jeffries, a fabulous baddie who lacked only clouds of smoke issuing forth at his entrance, and Rafaella Piscina’s Fanny Foldarol-Trumpington, who grew more and more confident as the show progressed and by the end was the focus of every eye: cool, sassy, captivating and super-shiny-haired, like a golden retriever. She’s clearly another user of Theatre Workshop Coulsdon’s magic shampoo (please email me details at once).

This Dick needs to stand and deliver

There’s also Woss Poldork: this character, who spoofs the BBC’s remake of ‘brooding drama’ Poldark (ridiculously buff, notably scornful of authority and never missing an opportunity to take his shirt off – although he didn’t actually take it off, and should have) was a wonderfully funny idea and Peter Bird’s a bed-headed dead ringer. It needed just a tad more swagger and a bit louder and clearer lines: one or two of these got swallowed, which was a shame. (This was also frustratingly the case with the very first scene-setting hold-up in the coach.) I also wanted a slightly more definitive Jack/Dick: he needs to really stand and deliver for the hot Fanny right alongside.

This Dick goes deep down south, but if Southern trains seem chancy (understandable), the 60 bus gets to Coulsdon in no time (that’s how we got there) and the community centre is a six or seven minute walk from the shops and both train stations (Coulsdon Town and Coulsdon South). The show’s on all week, so head for Scratting’s Coffee House and join the ‘waifs, lunatics, drummers and general mob’ of Croydonian panto fans.

‘The Pantomime Adventures of Dick Turpin’ is on until Saturday 18th December: you can book tickets here. Full price £10.00, concessions £7.00 and under fives £4.00.

Liz Sheppard-Jones

Liz Sheppard-Jones

Writer and editor. Views personal, not representative of editorial policy.

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