Printable CopyTHE DRAGON OF WANTLEY
The Parks Theatre
The Parks Theatre
Until 21 Dec 2019

Review by Anthony Vawser

With the onset of the ‘silly season’, it’s surely the perfect time to stage a light-hearted pantomime for the whole family, and director Fran Edwards has delivered an overall-enjoyable two hours of fun.

Pretty much all the welcome and expected elements are present and correct for this kind of old-fashioned good time: there’s a pretty young lady and her handsome squire (who may as well be considered as a princess and her prince charming, titles notwithstanding), a batch of hissable villains (including a spectacularly-costumed witch), plus a comedic double act always ready to complete each other’s jokes, and even a mellifluously-accented poet dispensing warmth and wisdom – topped off by an ingratiating master-of-ceremonies who issues his own special call-and-response greeting upon emergence into every one of his scenes (oh, and did I neglect to mention the inevitable drag act?)

While the titular dragon remains off-stage and unseen throughout (sound effects by Jacqui Wall assist the imagination in conjuring up a suitably scary picture), there is an absolutely delightful – and absolutely live – pantomime horse named Radish, brilliantly performed by Amy Bosco & Elani Bosland. (All the actors deserve commendation for performing under lights on a fifth consecutive day of scorching South Australian heat, but this reviewer has a little first-hand experience of the particular impact that a fully-enclosed animal costume can inflict upon its wearer in extreme weather conditions, so bravo to this talented pair for bringing it off in style!)

Also standing out amongst the generally-fine cast: Prudence Pole cutting just the right figure – and issuing a magnificently malevolent cackle - as villainous villainess Mauxalinda, while Saisulie Sandy brings a good sense of timing and audience interaction to most of his scenes as the unofficial-compere character of Jingo.

Top-notch in the technical arena are projected backdrops serving the traditional function of set design, and conveying impressive scale as well as strong clarity. Bec Mason has nicely chosen a handful of suitable songs to punctuate proceedings, and served up some appropriately straightforward choreography to go along with them. Christopher Golding’s lighting designs lend particularly striking enhancement to the impact of Mauxalinda’s appearances.

This production, delightful as it often is, does suffer from certain flaws that ought to be addressed. Ensemble vocals (unamplified) often become lost behind the levels of pre-recorded accompaniment. Also, the proportion of verbal humour – sometimes quite mature in its level of sophistication – tends to overwhelm the amount of physical action here; too many scenes get a bit bogged down in overly-static, understated delivery of wordy, adult-directed jokes.

Nonetheless, the strike rate is definitely high enough to send an audience member out with a solid smile on their face. Well done to the Parks Theatre for contributing to the Christmas cheer.

Fran Edwards is a reviewer for Adelaide Theatre Guide.