Mercury at Abbey Fields
On TV last night it was wall to wall politics so what better place to go for a bit of escapism than a tent in a very wet field in Colchester. For here was told the story of Ella, a young girl hoping for a life, and maybe even love, beyond the servitude of her wicked step-mother and her two, less than pretty, step sisters: Mylie and Kylie.
As is normal for shows like this there is a narrator, a Fairy Godmother (Deborah Tracy), surrounded by green and pink clad nymphys in sunglasses, whose job it is to ensure the audience don’t lose the plot – unlike some of the cast! Her opening number, ‘Magic To Do’ set the musical bar very high indeed.
A well planned introduction of the main character Ella (Mari McGinlay), Prince Charming (Samuel Knight) and his trusty sidekick Dandini (Nerine Skinner), Buttons (Nicholas McLean) proved their individually excellent vocal talents before we met the wicked stepmother (Genevieve Nicole) and her daughters Kylie (Anthony Stuart-Hicks) and Miley (Dale Superville).
From here on in, despite their valiant acting efforts, everyone was but a mere bit player in the Kylie and Miley show. Quite possibly the best Panto Dame double act in the universe but most definitely in a field in Essex. They may have learned their lines but frequently went off script, as they vie to out-do each other in ad-libbing and compete to put each other off. I think it is fair to say Dale was the winner last night, skipping across the stage singing ‘he’s lost it, he’s lost it’ only stopping to lift his skirt and exclaim ‘look at my knickers!’ as Anthony, wracked with laughter, held onto a prop trying to compose himself and deal with the dribble of snot escaping his nostril!
Despite this the show went on, Ella became a princess and went to the ball – not in a carriage transformed from a pumpkin but in a… no, let’s not spoil that well engineered surprise. There was ballet – I will never look at Swan Lake in the same light again! There were big show numbers featuring all of the cast and top-class individual performances.
I never tire of a Mercury Panto. You can always rely on the team to get Panto done, and done well! This year was no exception.
The tent in Abbey Fields is a temporary home for the theatre while back at Balkern Gate the theatre itself undergoes refurbishment. Lest you be put off, think large, heated circus tent rather than village-fete marquee.
I cannot finish without a word of thanks to the car park staff: cheerful, friendly and helpful despite having to work outside in December in the pouring rain.