Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Dame Ian makes the shoe fit

The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe

Highbury Little Theatre


THERE is nothing like a Dame! So says the big song from the hit musical South Pacific, and the same can be said much further down the entertainment pecking order.

This pantomime by Sutton Coldfield's Highbury Players, a shade late in the season, was limping along until Ian Cornock appeared on the scene as Dame Diptheria Dallymore, and what a difference he (she)made.

Suddenly life in Tumbledown Village, Entertainia, became much more interesting with Cornock simply bursting with confidence and charisma. The small audience on the night I attended sat up and took notice.

When Dame D proposes to the King (Malcolm Deathridge) and is told she would make a lovely 'Queen', the look he gave the customers said it all.

Dame Dallymore, running an orphanage which is re-located in a giant boot after former premises were destroyed by a giant, kick-starts the revival, wearing a remarkable range of colourful costumes and wigs that must have swallowed a large chunk of the show's budget.

In the early stages of Norman Robbins' story some of the acting was rather wooden and unconvincing, while the quality of the singing was particularly disappointing until late in the second act.


Occasionally - and it was not opening night - lines were forgotten, though when comedy duo Wrack (Heather Johnson) and Ruin (Sarah Cotter) 'lost it' during a song, their fit of giggles proved a very funny episode for the patient audience.

There are other plusses in the panto which, in its publicity leaflet, promised 'music, dancing and groan-worthy jokes'.

Karrise Willets, playing the wicked Calumnia, had the ability to attract the jeers and boos, while the good lady, Mother Goose (Louise Farmer wielding a large wooden spoon) has a lovely smile and a pleasant delivery with a Scottish accent.

A fine performance, too, from Roddy Lynch, dressed as a jester, determined to whip up some audience reaction and usually succeeding. Other key roles are taken by Reg Tolley (the Squire), Steve McNeill (Corydon), Hannah Parry (Princess Marigold) and Emelia Wells (Bo Peep).

We hear though never see the giant, but are told one of his giant tears could sweep away a house. At one performance the theatre roof sprang a leak during a heavy rainstorm, but the big man wasn't responsible.

Directed by Suzy Donnelly and Richard Ham, the panto has an amusing classroom scene, while the ghost in a white sheet, white long johns and trainers had the youngsters in the audience calling for more. To 07-01-12

Paul Marston 

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