Last week, The Lakeside Theatre was transformed into a magical fairy kingdom as the Theatre Arts Society (TAS) brought their annual Pantomime to the stage. Written by Essex alumni Chloe Atkinson and directed by Jack Parker and Finn Todd, this Puss in Boots was a far-cry from the fairy tale classic. The narrative followed student-boff Dick (Ryan Clune) who would much rather spend his Saturday nights studying while his wild brothers Tom and Harry (Samuel Miller and Cree Taylor) party till the early hours in Subzero. Things take a turn for the surreal when Dick accidentally rides beyond the top floor in the Library paternoster and is warped into the world of the book he was carrying at the time: Classical Fairytales From the 1600s. The catch? Dick’s only way to return to Essex and normality is to live out the fairytale as its protagonist- Dick Whittington.
Narrated by the eggquisite Humpty Dumpty himself (Billy Dewen), the story follows Dick’s plight through the magical fairy tale land; his efforts to convince the inhabitants that he is in fact the prestigious Duke of Essex in a bid to win the heart of the beautiful Princess Sophia (Imogen Hann). Accompanied by everyone’s furry favourite, Campus Cat Pebbles (Babita Bura), he meets an array of vivid characters along the way, including saucy Dame Fiona Finkleberry (Callum Marshall), the volcanic Green Giant (Argyris Gabriel) and the late Hugh Hefner and his Playboy Bunnies, no less (Adam Pardy, Louise Day, Ellie Lawrence and Danie McIntyre).
Ben Jennings sparkled as the wicked Lord Nearquad, who alongside his kooky Nearsquad endeavours to usurp the King of Fairyland (Joey Cadge) by bringing about his demise and marrying Princess Sophia himself. A persistent, albeit crooked thorn in Dick’s journey.
I spoke to cast members Billy and Ben about what it was like being a part of the TAS Panto experience. Billy told me: ‘‘Playing Humpty Dumpty was a highlight of this year so far. He was funny, charismatic and friendly, and kind of reminds me of myself;[ panto itself was a stressful process, but very rewarding as we put together a cracking show!’’
Ben added: ‘‘At first it felt like a pretty intimidating challenge as I’ve never had a role of that size before; but as I worked more on it with Finn and Jack I felt more and more comfortable with it. Panto was one of the best acting experiences I’ve ever had, and it was also a lot of fun to be the bad guy. Interacting with the audience as the villain is a great feeling as you know they love to hate you.’’
Overall, Puss in Boots proved the latest in a long line of successful TAS shows. Once again, Essex’s Theatre Arts Society proved that when it comes to staging the side-splitting, the extravagant and the risque, they really are the experts! Were you lucky enough to attend Puss in Boots? If so, what did you think? Who was your favourite character? We’d love to know your thoughts! Share your thoughts with us on Instagram (@unilovers.co.uk) or in the comments section below!