Friday, 2 May 2014

Factor 2025 - Saturday 22 March


















Renee Rogers, Hawthorne Theatre Reviewer
http://idoconsultancy.wordpress.com/2014/03/24/back-to-reality/
 
Back to Reality
 
It was a dilemma any reality TV loving viewer will face…. Do I stay in and watch the first live show of The Voice or go out on a Saturday night, but risk seeing the result on social networks before having the time to catch up on Sky +?!
After a slight deliberation and the lure of a special guest star, the theatre won and I pulled on my reviewer cap and off I went to see Factor 2025.
Ironically the play was about the demise of TV talent shows and the mindset of the modern viewer, so my earlier deliberation was rather fitting.
Johnny Tait was the mastermind behind the piece and playing the pivotal character ‘Trenton Powell’ (no guesses as to which reality supremo he was emulating) he raised more than a few laughs from the audience.  With a script littered with risky jokes, near the mark innuendoes and shocking revelations, it kept me laughing even when I knew I shouldn’t.
The story centred around Powell and the newest series of his failing reality show, but instead of focusing on talent, the main aim was to exaggerate the unfortunate stories of the contestants for audience pleasure, resulting in higher viewing figures.
Rehearsal Image - Taken from Facebook
Rehearsal Image – Taken from Facebook

I found myself anaslysing this throughout the piece asking myself what kind of people are we as a viewing nation if negative stories and bad news make us hungry for more, more, more! (apologies for the ‘in-joke,’ I supposed you had to be there.)
A highlight of the show was a completely unexpected near naked cameo by Celebrity Big Brother winner Alex Reid, who threw all inhibitions out of the window and strutted his stuff on stage wearing a tighter pair of hotpants than Kyle Minogue. Thank goodness my sister was present, otherwise I may have lost myself and thrown in a few wolf whistles and whoops for good measure!
The talent that was interspersed throughout the play showcased a few rising stars, and a comically timed rendition of ‘On My Own’ was a real highlight.
Tait has really wrapped up the modern viewers cynicism in a neat little package of quick humour, relatable scripting and personable anecdotes. Providing a well rounded evening of entertainment that was worth missing The Voice for!
So what is the future of reality TV shows? As an audience are we going to push for more obscure and negative stories, is ‘talent’ going to run out, or will we be driven back to classic mediums of entertainment? Whatever the outcome, you can be sure I will be one of those entertainment junkies following the turbulent journey of the manipulated contestant until our very own Mr Cowell puts the idea to bed.
And on that note…night x

 Jaz Alice, Hawthorne Theatre Reviewer
http://jazalice.wordpress.com/2014/03/24/reid-all-about-it/

Reid All About It

Well it was show time again at the Hawthorne Theatre tonight with a hilarious performance full of twists and turns, witty humour and very toned buttocks! ‘Factor 2025’, written by Johnny Tait explores the backstage antics and drama of a typical televised talent contest in a clever, relatable way.
Starring Alex Reid (Big Brother Winner and Katie Price’s Ex Hubby) as ‘Joey, who’s good with computers’ showed there is more to the cage fighter than an abs-olutely fantastic physique! The GSA (Guilford School of Acting) graduate gave us our GDA of hunky chizzled muscles, not to mention the guideline daily amount of H20 as he squirted water all over the unprepared audience! Needless to say there were a lot of wet ladies after his strut around the stage in just a little pair of red hotpants!
Tait’s well-written but highly risqué play displayed an array of characters and acts, keeping the audience thoroughly entertained throughout with dancers, singers and even poetry readers – each possessing contrasting levels of talent from sweet soloists to comedic drag acts!
Mr Powell, brought to life by Johnny Tait himself was accompanied by his pretty ass-istant who help sift through the good, the bad and the angry to find the sob stories that we as a nation know and love too well, even if they had to make up a few porkie-pies in the process! It was very refreshing to see Tait play a grotesque, seedy, money driven man who was willing to put fame and fortune before morals – and those were just his good points!

Despite the multitude of talent on the stage, one of my favourite auditionees was 52 yr old George, who rocked out like there was no tomorrow and let the audience join in his private party by singing and clapping along. With his amazing ability to capture each member of public’s attention, it was safe to say that he definitely left us wanting more, more, more!
Personally, I feel the best part about ‘Factor 2025’ was how everyone watching was made aware of the harsh reality of how easily the TV industry manipulates poor, innocent people, prying on their vulnerability in their search for stardom.  The audience participation was key to the success of the show, engaging the entire auditorium and really involving us on the emotional journey created by Tait.
All in all, a big congratulations to a budding cast, who without a doubt have the ‘X-Factor’ and definitely provided a great insight into the world of reality television – ‘Behind the Screens’, with special recognition going out to Alex Reid for his surprising transition from Cage to Stage!
Overall, another great show put on in the city of Welwyn Garden with a shocking twist ending which really made the show go out with a controversial (and quite incestuous) bang!  
#onlythingmissingwasdermot
Jasmine Alice

Entertaining Mr Sloane - 27 - 29 March














Jaz Alice, Hawthorne Theatre Reviewer
http://jazalice.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/entertaining-mr-sloane/

So I walk into the auditorium at the Hawthorne for the second time this week, not knowing that for the next two hours I will be taken back to the sixties, and transported into a wonderfully quirky time warp.
The first thing that caught my attention was the incredibly original and detailed set. By placing the entire play in the living room of Kemp and his daughter Kath, along with the frantically stacked scenery, it established a space of familiarity and comfort for the viewer. What could only be described as ‘organised chaos’ really created the sense of lost belongings without a place in life and this gave us an early indication as to the unusually eccentric life of Kemp and Kath who resided there.
The inanimate objects scattered around the stage really reflected the feeling of the four cast members in the production with their longing for interaction, attention and undoubtedly, physical contact. I felt that even though each character held a very different personality and pathway in life, they did share the constant desire for acceptance and recognition throughout the piece. Kath, being a middle-aged woman and still devastated from the loss of her baby, was full of desperation in craving attention from younger males to fill the void whilst. I witnessed Pauline Whitaker convey just the right amount of delicate femininity balanced with a naughtier, wild side that continued to keep the audience on the edge of their seats!
Kath’s adorable father Kemp was an elderly man in what seemed like his final years. It was clear that there was nothing in his life worth waiting for anymore apart from perhaps the odd, slowly toasted crumpet! Even though his death wasn’t a terrible shock to the clued-up audience, it still brought an air of sadness as we all related to the vulnerable old gentleman.
Ed, I felt was an amusingly complex character. Confused in his sexuality and unsure of his place in society, there was a persistent need for respect and acknowledgement brought out in the piece. Homosexuality was heavily frowned upon at that time and I felt a strong sense of underlying resentment from the writer, Joe Orton who was a gay man in the sixties, portrayed through Ed’s unfulfilled character.
My favourite character in the performance, however, was the very cutting Mr Sloane. With each layer of clothing taken off by Mr Sloane (and believe me there were a few!) we were led down an increasingly dark path into the history of a very seductive but secretive young man.
Played by Actor Paul Sandys, charm and wit oozed from every line spoken, capturing the audience with ease from start to finish. With a distinctly convincing performance, our initial suspicion gradually progressed into sympathy as we grew to see the ‘lost boy’ in Sloane simply searching for a secure home and parental figure, perhaps not in the form of Kath however, who succeeded in taking advantage of a naive boy’s hunger for affection.
All four actors in the performance completely committed to their roles and I believe they did extremely well to convey the increasing sexual tension and ambiguity included within the play. Personally, I feel this well cast production explored the more vulnerable aspects to the story, taking the public on a journey of emotions built up by dramatic tension with splintered intervals of comical genius.
Along with the wacky set, the costumes immediately pulled me back to the sixties, with Kath’s frilly pink nightdress being my favourite. With sexual tension radiating in that particular scene, the feminine allure was evidently too hard to resist for an already half naked Mr Sloane as he proceeded to take off yet another item of clothing… no complaints from us, mind!
Orton’s subtly sadistic script concealed twists and turns to make for a very gripping and intense viewing, and I found Ed’s line to Sloane to be especially amusing when he advised that ‘Women are like banks, boy… breaking and entering is a serious business!’
The racy nature of the play suggests a tone well ahead of its time considering it had been written 50 years ago, which just displays the incredible talent possessed by the late playwright.
Although Joe Orton had an unexpected tragic end to his life, I feel his wit and intelligence live on through the exquisite play that is Entertaining Mr Sloane.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Macbeth - Wednesday 19 March


















Naomi Watkins, Hawthorne Theatre Reviewer



Just back from watching Macbeth at the Hawthorne Theatre. Fantastic performance with all characters played by four very talented cast members. Atmospheric lighting and music amplified each mood, all emphasising the control of the witches over Macbeth without ever overpowering the acting itself.

The actresses moved effortlessly between characters, one second an old hag and the next King Duncan or Lady Macbeth. The cast used various props to denote who they were at any particular time such as, canes and sashes, but it was almost unnecessary as the actresses changed their posture, facial expressions and accents to each character. Macbeth was equally convincing in his struggle between ego and conscience, the scenes where Macbeth succumbed to his imagination were very powerfully performed (“Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle toward my hand?”).

The set and outfits were quite basic, the only exception to this were two television screens built into each side of the set, which showed flags to denote a ghostly presence, blood when characters died and so on. It was an interesting touch, not entirely necessary but along with the lighting and music it added to the overall atmosphere. The entire set was effectively just three large steps with grave stones, which created a dark ambience and allowed the cast to ‘disappear’ from Macbeth’s view into the background, but the audience could still see the ever watchful witches in the background, almost orchestrating everything from above like puppeteers.

Most importantly the cast were completely believable. I felt that the actresses particularly excelled; convincingly playing men, witches, a child, and completely changing character in an instant. Utterly captivating, even though my knowledge of Shakespeare is a bit rusty at best!

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Teddy Time 2 - 2 February 14












Louise Groves, Hawthorne Theatre Reviewer

A theatre date with Phoebe

I collected my excited niece Phoebe, clutching her favourite teddy, this morning and off we went to the Hawthorne Theatre at Campus West in Welwyn Garden City. Phoebe is two, and having been to her first pantomime at Christmas seems to have already been bitten by the theatre bug. She had expectations of being able to sing-a-long and join in, like she had done so at the panto, so I hoped she wouldn’t be disappointed. 

Campus West is such an easy venue in terms of location, it’s in the town centre but just every so slightly away from the shops, so parking never seems to be a problem in the large car park. Phoebe was excited to see other little ones clutching teddies walking into the theatre, and we eagerly followed them. After a promise of sweeties, naturally we had to stop off at Humphrey’s Coffee Shop. I got too distracted by the pick ‘n’ mix and filled a regular sized cup, priced at a reasonable £2. Phoebe’s eyes lit up, and I giggled at the thought of the sugar loaded little minx I would later be returning to her mummy. That’s half the fun of bring auntie isn’t it?! I did discover when paying though that they do also sell single packets of sweets such as fruitella’s, maltesers etc, so you can spend less if you avoid the pick ‘n’ mix and get home without your children bouncing off the walls!

Stopping to pick up a booster seat for Pheebs on the way into the theatre we were ready to get settled into our seats, and naturally tuck into those sweets! The curtains were up, and the stage was set up like a child’s bedroom. Bright colours & plenty of teddies captured Phoebe’s attention before the show started. Lights down, and it’s show time! 

Lily our storyteller for the next 50 minutes, was dressed in her PJ’s and was ready for bed, but not before she told her teddies a story or two. With the help of the children in the audience, and a little magic, she put her voice into the magic storybook, and was able to act out the stories. All the little ones in the theatre (and most of the big people – me included!) joined in with the abracadabra’s, the waving of teddy bears in the air, and the magic spell casting. I was amazed at how well little Phoebe picked up the words and copied, at two she is just too smart, she loved it. 

Using simple costumes, puppets, and a guy who looked less than enthused to be part of the show, Lily acted out the story of Little Red Riding Hood, complete with a rapping wolf.
Story number two was The Ugly Duckling. Lots more cute puppets were used to tell the story, as well as Lily playing mummy duck. Mummy Duck sang a song to her eggs asking when they were going to hatch, and to be honest I though it was too old for the audience, baring in mind the show is aimed at 4-7 year olds. Ok, so Pheebs I know is only two, but I was looking around and other children were growing restless, they were not engaged with songs that they couldn’t participate in, or didn’t know. Asking the eggs if they weren’t hatching because of something she might have eaten, is not really something little ones would have any understanding of, and it seemed like this, and the rapping wolf from Little Red Riding Hood were added for the parents. Maybe they were but I would be more happy if my little one was excited and engaged in the show, rather than have a moment in it for me, whilst they lost interest. Fortunately singing Old MacDonald drew the children’s attention again, and everyone joined in, especially with the ‘Quack Quacks’. 

The children seemed to love all the audience participation throughout the show. At just 50 minutes long it kept them entertained and there were only odd moments of restlessness. All in all it was a cute show, and a nice way to spend an hour with Phoebe. She loved it, and asked if we could go again tomorrow. It’s wonderful to watch the excitement on her face when she joins in with the actions and sings along. So yes Miss Phoebe, if it was on again tomorrow I’d take you again.

Ultimate Elton and The Rocket Band - 31 January 14













Tracey Hamilton, Hawthorne Theatre Reviewer

Had the pleasure of seeing Ultimate Elton and the Rocket Band last night at Hawthorne-Theatre Hawthorne-Theatre and what a fantastic show it was.
The band was introduced on stage by Stuart Epps who had worked with the real Elton, he stated 'quite simply the best Elton tribute you will see or hear anywhere' and he was not wrong.
'Elton' then came on stage in a pink suit and silver sparkly shoes with an umbrella!
The choice of songs spanned 40 years of albums from ballads such as candle in the wind to the upbeat I'm still standing and crocodile rock which got the audience on their feet and clapping along .
The show was in 2 halves with a break in between and was worth every penny, there was plenty of introductions to the songs and banter with the audience.
The Rocket Band were fab and also deserve great recognition .
Please do try to see this tribute act as they are certainly one of the best I have seen and would be great if they would return to Hawthorne Theatre again!



TK Choo, Hawthorne Theatre Reviewer

A blast. Saw the Ultimate Elton & The Rocket Band tonight. Unsure initially as this is our first ever tribute band show.Our fears are unfounded as they were very good and entertaining. They warmed up after the second song - Rocket Man ending with the audience dancing to Elton hits like Crocodile Rock, I'm Still Standing, Pinball Wizard and many more. The Elton doppelganger is impressive with his voice and mannerism. Great band too. Worth a visit.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Beauty and the Beast - 21 until 31 December 13











Jasmine Alice, Hawthorne Theatre Reviewer

There’s Nothing like a Dame

Tonight I witnessed a fun, friendly and very vibrant pantomime. Written, directed and even starring the super talented Guy Masterson, Beauty and the Beast was a real hit amongst an audience of all ages. With a cleverly selected cast, the stage lit up with character (no spotlights needed) and from start to finish was a very entertaining event!

Serena Manteghi, Samuel Donnelly and James Marlowe played the fabulously energetic Belle, Beast and Little Willy. Manteghi brought the fundamental sweet, likeable persona of Belle, displaying a natural acting ability and a wholesome but whimsical charm.
The Beast however was probably my favourite, as Donnelly executed a brilliantly complex character of depth whilst embodying the animalistic qualities of a frightening, misunderstood creature.


Helping to keep the light-hearted and youthful mood tonight was the endearing role of Little Willy. With a powerful voice and a bubbly personality, Marlowe played the ‘fool-in-love’ that no panto should be without!


The witty script kept the children, grandparents and all those in between thoroughly amused throughout the performance, and the audience participation was appropriately placed and particularly engaging.. oh yes it was! With some traditional jokes and some fresh, funny material by Mr Masterson, as an audience we were gripped.

I have to say though, the most humorous part for me was the Dame’s impromptu (and accidental but hilarious) stumble into the audience, conveniently dressed as a row of town-houses..  which certainly went down like a ton of bricks… literally!

I mean, talk about raising the roof.. or bringing the house down….(I’m here all night folks!) But even with that little mis-hap, Masterson certainly didn’t struggle to get back on track and we were never even semi-detached!  (Last house joke, I promise.)

On a serious note however, the Dame showed commendable professionalism. After all, ‘The Show Must Go On’ …Oops… Wrong Panto!!


After the front row had recovered, and we had all stopped roaring with laughter, the comedic ‘all singing, all dancing’ show continued to make us chuckle and tap our toes with the delightfully catchy musical numbers. Including a wide variety of music, from classic tunes to chart-toppers, the soundtrack contained only the catchiest of songs, each being hairbrush-worthy and even had my little neice of two singing along!

The beautifully intricate set had me captivated and was just another component which added to a great show brought to us by The Hawthorne. Although missing the traditional panto horse, there were definitely no long faces! Can’t wait for next year’s Pantomime already!
Bravo.



Renee Rogers, Hawthorne Theatre Reviewer


Be Our Guest!

As you may have guessed last night I saw the pantomime ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ Oh no you didn’t….oh yes I did!! (No apologies for the bad panto joke folks!)
Using this opportunity to introduce my ‘nearly’ two year old to live theatre I was excited and also a little apprehensive. An unabridged version of Hamlet may be risky at her age but a Pantomime I was sure we could handle.

Making our way through the main entrance, already I could hear the chatter of excited children filling the foyer. The obligatory led toys were on sale and I couldn’t resist getting a spinning windmill for my little one (me!) The ushers led us through to our seats and I was relieved to be near the end on an aisle incase I needed a quick getaway if my handbag full of lollies didn’t suffice!

As the show went up, with a makeshift cast (I’m not giving the game away) the children lit up and the energy was electric. The opening song was ‘I’ve Got a Feeling’ by The Black Eyed Peas and instantly Lola was on her feet dancing away.

The cast was assigned perfectly, from the nice but dim father, the soft, gentle natured Belle, the love-struck friend and the OTT and rather fabulously dressed Dame (I wish I could rock a giant Christmas Tree with baubles to rival Pat Butcher.) The Beast was a stand out character that did well to bring a darker side to the proceedings, but the constant call of ‘Cat, Cat, Cat’ by my daughter may not have been the desired effect.

The script was witty and raucous and this allowed the audience to feel at ease when participating….although I not sure they needed putting at ease…Welwyn Garden City what a fun and loud crowd you are!

The two and a half hours flew by and Lola was on her feet for 80% of the time, dancing, cheering, and booing, with a sad call of Uh Oh when the Beasts heart was breaking.
Overall a truly spirited performance with a perfect mix of love, laugher and long johns!

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Adrienne Perry, Hawthorne Theatre Reviewer
Slushies slurping neon light sabres in hand and twinkling flashing wands. We Take our seats in the Hawthorne theatre and await for the magic to begin. Filled with anticipation the crowd is buzzing with excited children any moment now the excitement will begin.....but there's a problem.......'oh no there isnt'.......oh yes there is the 'cast' are stuck on the m1 the show is going to be delayed if it can go on at all. Gasps from the crowd disappointment abound in the childrens faces.... Then a voice from the side of the auditorium 'I can do it' it a member of the front of house team she said she could sing and had been to enough rehearsals. Two more stewards offer their services along with a 'reviewer' from the Welwyn hatfield times and they break into a rendition of 'a whole new world' and Guy Masterson is transformed into Dame Dolly la Douche and there the romp begins and it doesn't stop. It races along and at approx 2 1/2 hours with the interval it is a long show but never once does it feel that way. 

Serena Manteghi plays belle and is as enchanting as the story and her voice is tender and tranquil and to her credit delivered a perfect pantomime princess. One of her highlight for me was when she sang 'on my own' from les mis to the beast as he lay dying of a broken heart it was a captivating performance and may have caused my eyes to leak. That's the beauty of panto one minuet your laughing and shouting 'he's behind you' the next your moved to tears in a tender moment of love.

Jonnny Tait who is the' Welwyn hatfield times' reviewer is whipped from the audience and plays Belles dad he kept whipping out a 'script' (keeping with the gag that he was a last minute replacement) this wasn't over done and was quite funny. 

James Marlowe played willie the unlucky in love son of Dame Dolly la douche. I enjoyed his performance and how he tried in vain to make Belle fall in love with him but this is beauty and the beast and we all know shes going to fall in love with the beast so we feel sorry for him from the start.

The beast played by Samuel Donnell was was skilful in his portrayal of the beast. His stoop kept solid throughout his scenes and he ambled across the stage in a beast like manner his reveal to humanity at the end resulted with a great cheer from the audience. At one point Belle kisses the beast and a boy from the audience shouts out 'urrgh'.He like many others were drawn in and we forgot ourselves but that's the beauty of panto. All conventions of the theatre are to be ignored heckling is encouraged and even demanded. We the audience are the final cast member and without our participation it cannot work.

I have to say however the star of the show for me was Guy Masterson the writer/director who plays Dame Dotty la Douche the traditional panto dame and boy he did not disappoint. From the moment his false boobs were put on infront of the audience to his amazing finale dress he dazzled , fascinated, amazed and astonished us. I laughed until my cheeks hurt. Overacting 'Oh yes he did!!' and just enough to make us love her. She carried the show narrating when time needed to move faster and there were an amazing 7 costume changes including my favourites the Christmas tree dress and the house dress Superb!!

Lets not forget the supporting cast the dancers from the shooting stars academy. They were super and gave very polished performances. 

This pantomime was as good as any ive seen if not better the draw for some pantos is the big famous names they have on their bill - ok so we didn't have that but did we care we didn't even notice. The cast were strong and all performances excellent there wasn't a weak link at all. It had everything you needed for a perfect panto. Oodles of audience participation and I didn't want it to end. All I can say is bring on 2014 because if sleeping beauty is as good as this then you wont want to miss it !!!!
 
Steven Dolby, Hawthorne Theatre Reviewer

The lower Luton Road led me to a magical world at the Hawthorne Theatre, Welwyn Garden City, Herts. My teenage daughter and I arrived early and were struck by the warm welcome at the front of house - special mention must be made of the cheerful and helpful Box Office staff and the hard working and patient staff at Humphreys Coffee Shop.

Loved the beginning of the performance, with the Writer, Director and Co-Producer, Guy Masterson, first hearing the news that due to a problem on the motorway, the cast could not make it to the performance. There were some concerned faces in the audience. Not to worry, Theatre staff in the building helping the audience (and having seen the rehearsals) volunteer to take the parts of their unavoidably delayed colleagues - Hurrah! 


A wonderfully sung, choreagraphed and beautifully staged production commences. It would be wrong of me to highlight any single performance - any of whom would have graced a West End Stage. An all star performance, no D list "clebs" here - "Where's my career?......" "Behind You!" was matched by the simply joyous singing and snappy, cross cutting dialogue (that reminded me of the best zany comedies of 30's like "Helzapoppin" or the Marx Brothers) and a sound level within the auditorium that allowed you to savour every word.


A marvellous production and I would also point out the excellent scenery, both for its artwork and for the seamless scene changes and inventive use of the video screens to show the rose losing its petals.


No greater praise can be given than to point out how impressed my teenage daughter was with the production. We were very concerned when "Dame Dotty" took a fall on the stage - the concern was audible, such was the rapport developed with the audience.
I understand that the 2014 production will be "Sleeping Beauty" - I won't sleep until I have a ticket.


A fantastic, marvellous production. Thank you. 


Jane Wing, Hawthorne Theatre Reviewer


Don't we all just love the great British tradition of the Panto at Christmas? Oh no we don't, oh yes we do.......! Well I certainly do and last night I took my daughter to see Beauty and the Beast at The Hawthorne Theatre, WGC.
This is a home - grown production, written and directed ( and also starring) Guy Masterson who we saw earlier this year in 'The Odd Couple' on this same stage.

It all began with a mock 'disaster' - Guy standing up to apologise as the cast were stuck on the motorway and wouldn't make it in time for the show - what could be done? Handily, some members of the 'crew' just happened to be available as stand-ins so lo and behold - the show could go on!! A bit cheesy? Well yes, but that's what Panto is all about isn't it?

Guy played Dame Dotty La Douche - and it was very clear he was enjoying himself! That's one of the things I like best about Panto, the actors can let themselves go and really have a laugh with the adults in the audience - it makes you feel like you're really 'in' on the joke, that you're an integral part of the show and not just an outsider watching. And we, the audience, certainly had a big part to play in this show! Right from the beginning the actors worked really hard to get the, somewhat reluctant, audience to loosen up and join in. And we did join in, mostly, although I fear there may have been a few too many responses required for us to remember them all! 
Belle was played very gracefully by Serena Manteghi. She sang beautifully and played the audience well with just the right amount of coyness and cheekiness to make her a very appealing character. The Beast was brilliant, played by Samuel Donnelly, fierce and gruff but with just a hint of vulnerability (and a few winks to the audience) and I was very pleased by the reaction he got when finally appearing as the the handsome Prince, and I think he rather enjoyed it too!

James Marlowe made quite an endearing 'Willie', handling the children who came up on stage during the 'community singsong' number well. Johnny Tait was introduced as the Welwyn Hatifeild Times reviewer - who had to be persuaded to join the cast, and he certainly played the 'uncomfortable amateur' convincingly throughout! I liked his Cockney, pathetic father character - but couldn't imagine why Belle would be so desperate to get home to him! 
My six year old daughter particularly enjoyed the musical numbers, especially the Katy Perry and Jesse J songs, her favourite ones of the moment! She didn't recognise 'Material Girl' or 'Michelle' and thought that they were odd choices!! I, however, certainly did recognise the less recent pop songs and liked the gentle lyric adaptations that were used to link the songs to the story.

Dancers were provided by the Shooting Stars Academy and they did a grand job! 
The sets and costumes were lavish and interesting, particularly those of the Dame. And my daughter said her favourite moment of all was the finale where the 'glittery' costumes were very eye catching!

Overall we both enjoyed our evening's entertainment. Some of the jokes were overly repetitive, but it was good to hear a script which managed to bring some freshness to the genre and I hope to be able to see next year's effort (Sleeping Beauty - booking now!!) as I'm sure Mr Masterson's second attempt at writing / directing / and starring in a Pantomime will produce another great night of family entertainment - Oh yes it will!  

 
Jon Brown, Hawthorne Theatre Reviewer



It had been quite a while since I saw a traditional pantomime, so I was very much looking forward to seeing this classic story performed on the local stage, and especially at Christmas time. I was not to be disappointed.

It was wonderful to see a virtually full house and as we all awaited curtain up, there was a buzz of excitement all around. A clever twist started proceedings as a man in casual wear took to the stage. It appeared he was a member of the back stage team. Two fellow colleagues followed him, wearing their bright green Hawthorne Theatre tops.

After a fun and energetic welcome, we discovered that all three were actually cast members and they were soon joined by a forth principal character that originally was pointed out as the newspaper show reviewer! Johnny Tait, reluctantly at first, took to the stage. The man in casual wear at the very start actually turned out to be Guy Masterson, the writer, director, co-producer of the show, and……the wonderful Dame – Dotty La Douche! 

From the official start, we were entertained with fun, comedy, plenty of jokes, lots’ of feel good songs, and most of all an abundance of audience participation. Weaved into all the entertainment was of course the classic story of Belle and her encounter with the Beast. I thought everything was pitched at the correct level and balance; between the off-the-cuff fun and slapstick action, and the telling of this romantic fantasy spectacle.

All the performances were spot on; led by Dame Dotty La Douche, played brilliantly by Guy Masterson, who apparently has never played a Dame before! He looked like a seasoned pro! Guy maintained a great energy and charisma throughout and his performance never dropped in tempo or energy, thus keeping the audience and especially the children focused and always drawn in to the action. This is vital in pantomime of course. The actors stepping out character to chaotically discuss any awkward moments with the stage manager was a regular occurrence and which was very funny.  

Serena Manteghi gave a pleasant and charming performance as Belle, showing a nice mix of sweet innocence and bold courage. Serena attacked her songs well, with one or two in particular being excellent renditions of recent pop classics. James Marlowe as Willie was funny, awkward appearing in character and gave a performance that certainly made us, the audience, really feel for him, with us giving many a cry of “Come on Willie, you can do it” and “We love you Willie!”

Samuel Donnelly as the Beast was commanding and confident, and thankfully not too scary! His mask and attire was impressive and he certainly had a presence when creeping about behind the gullible Belle. Johnny Tait as Papa was funny throughout and gave us plenty of London cockney humour, which was received with much laughter. 

These central performances were accompanied throughout the show by the dancers from locally based Shooting Stars Academy of Performing Arts. All the dancers were bright, cheerful and kept up an energy and vibrancy with each routine; excellently interlinking with the named characters with a real sense of fun. They all worked really hard, and it was clear they were having a great time.
The scene and set changes were quick and effective throughout, and I was especially impressed with the technical aspect of the production, most notably the slickness of the many technical lighting and sound cues.

So to conclude…this show was wonderfully delivered and really cannot be faulted. It had all the ingredients of a classic pantomime, and the fun and pace did not drop at all. It was interesting reading the impressive biography of Guy Masterson in the souvenir programme. His considerable experience as an actor and director was definitely evident from all we saw on stage. I was to go on to read that it was Guy’s first experience of ‘Panto’. Remarkable! It was also pleasing to hear that Guy will be returning in 2014 to bring another classic, ‘Sleeping Beauty’, to the stage of the Hawthorne Theatre! Hooray!

Happy New Year to you all!