Blyth Players’ panto Ali Baba is the last one of the season for me and as such heralds the spring and what a good way to end the winter.
This version, directed by Deborah Spencer, was a heart-warming family show with some inventive additions.
Audiences are used to safety information before a performance, but Blyth couldn’t let this pass in any ordinary way. The central aisle at Barnby Memorial Hall became that of a passenger plane with flight attendants pointing to fire exits.
Imaginative ideas abounded. A heckler in the audience was escorted off the premises. This was a set-up of course, with a well-placed Malcolm Pike as the heckler. There was even an Elvis impersonator (Sean Tindle) and a whip-toting Indiana Jones-type character and his gum-chewing assistant who appeared to have turned up to the wrong venue. These two (Courtney Baines and Deborah Spencer) demonstrated the art of using a whip to cut sheets of paper in two and remove a biscuit from the assistant’s mouth.
Zena Robinson, who always relates well to audiences, played Wafflah the storyteller and her real life husband, Andrew, played pantomime dame Salli Baba. His scary make-up made him a formidable dame, but one with a heart of gold. His character’s sons were Ali and Benni played by Rebecca Nelson and Sean Tindle. Ali’s lovely princess was Megan Reynolds, the essential Sultan was Barry Pickwell and Carole Tomlinson played Monah, the sultan’s wife.
Comedy moments were provided by the expressive Jeanette Adams and Sharon Hughes as Dilhi and Dalhi, and glamour by Tracey Priest as Shameez, Benni’s girlfriend. Mike Tomlinson also made an exquisitely evil Captain Khayyam. Along with a herald, robbers, and a drummer, Serenaidh the wonky donkey (Laura Maxwell and Abigail White) added the finishing touches to a thoroughly enjoyable end of season pantomime.