1973 Dick Whittington
"Dick Whittington" at Kings Worthy
"Dick Whittington," the village pantomime presented by the Worthys Women’s Institute Drama Group on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of last week in the Jubilee Hall, Kings Worthy, certainly provided a welcome escape from the gloom that tended to encompass us at Christmas. Here, where the "state of emergency" was a mere plague of rats, was a show for the entire family - a show with a cast of 62.
Betty Lewis and her W.I. Drama Group have, until now, put on an annual pantomime for W.I. members, with a public performance for children and elderly people. This year, husbands and children took part.
As Dick, Christine Dobson departed to some extent from the traditional swaggering Principal Boy, and gave us the "very parfit gentle knight" of Chaucer, who "loved chivalry, truth and honour, freedom and courtesy." Dick's cat, played extremely well by Jean Lewis, was no mere clown or acrobat, but a heroic creature of a rare intelligence, who responded gallantly to the blandishments of the White Cat, played with obvious delight by Clare Woyka. As Alderman Fitzwarren, John Bennet positively oozed wealth and its trappings, and Lorraine Brown was well cast as his pretty, spoilt daughter. Judy O'Malley, as Idle Jack, son of Cookie, was very good, with the exact touch of extravagance needed to help a young audience understand his seemingly innocent machinations.
Eileen George, as Cookie, demonstrated her undoubted talent for comedy - alternately coy and obsequious towards the Alderman, her employer, and either over-indulgent or over-censorious towards her "mixed-up" son. She was unfortunately indisposed on Saturday, and her place was taken at short notice by Evelyn Deacon, who gave a remarkably good performance.
In the small part of the Emperor of Morocco, Laurie George had too limited an opportunity to show his mettle; here indeed was a genuine character-study, a professional cameo in voice, movement and gesture. Don Brown struck terror into the hearts of all deck-hands as the blustering, bullying ship's Captain, and Claire Goodwin's excellent dancing talent was used to good effect in the Mate's "inebriate" dance. Also in the cast were Lena Osborn as the Empress of Morocco, with original ideas on rat extermination, Betty Pragnell as Princess Bettina, David Thompson as First Guard, Margaret Bennett as Second Guard and Alan Lewis as the Grand Vizier.
To Anne Woyka, who taught the adult dance sequences, and arranged the very clever dances and mimes for Cooks, Rats, Cats, Kittens and Sailors, must be given a great deal of credit for her pantomime's success. The Babies, Primary and Junior pupils from her Kings Worthy Dancing School, were a joy to watch, while mothers had spared no effort to produce delightful costumes. As for the adults, the magnificent costumes of citizens, sailors and members of the harem provided a glorious kaleidoscope of colour, and cleverly contrived scenic touches created and authentic atmosphere on very occasion.
Francis Davis and Jean Lovegrove were at the piano, Jen Derbyshire was Stage Manager, and Jill Macklin acted as Prompt. Jonathon George was in charge of lighting and Eileen George organised costume. Christine and Tony Dobson were responsible for stage sets, and Peggy Huntington and Don Brown for publicity. Anne Woyka was assisted by Caroline Buchanan-Jones.
Chorus members were: Margaret Bennett, Elaine Bennett, Claire Goodwin, Veronica Jones, Susan Langley, Edna Milton, Lena Osborn, Joan Richman, Betty Pragnell, Joy Thompson, Julie Woolridge, Charlotte Hodges, Rosemary Deacon, Clare Woyka, Don Brown, Alan Lewis and David Thompson.
Children from the Dancing Class were: Babies and Primary Group - Alison and Suzanne Buck, Angela Court, Nichola Dando, Teressa Didymus, Juliet and Annabel Howland, Kerry Irwin, Sorrel Josephs, Sabina Lloyd, Suzanne Raynor, Tracy Roberts, Vanessa Shaw, Diana Waters and Sonya Weibers. Junior Group: White Kittens - Georgia Bing, Andrea Gale, Catherine Dudley, Sarah Holly, Rachael Lovegrove and Claire Pearce; plus Karen Baker, Sarah Boyd, Sandra Carpenter, Constance Chandler, Frances and Geraldine Crossley, Claire Dumford, Alison and Elizabeth Feeney, Lucy Goodman, Jane Grant, Monica Lawes, Victoria Lloyd, Jennifer Smith, Deborah Sparks, Gaynor Scott, Elizabeth Thomas, Sarah Younger and Helen Ward.
There was a full house at each performance - a most encouraging start for the Worthys Drama Group, and a clear indication that live entertainment has much to offer.