This year’s panto from Bath Drama, doyen of Bath’s non-professional companies, is a shameless travesty of R L Stevenson’s tale of pirates, treasure, and skulduggery. Here it is somewhat rewritten from the original, with characters such as the ghost of Captain Flint; Dame Harriet Hawkins; peculiarly idiot sisters Sam and Ella; and for no apparent reason, a German pirate called Hans. Now, there are a fair few enjoyable bits in all this; Iorwerth Mitchell’s Dame Harriet is suitably rambunctious and innuendo-filled in true panto style, in what is essentially the starring role in the piece; Marie Finlay as the fumbling but undaunted Blind Pugh is good fun also. Thomas Menezes as Billy Bones; and more importantly, as Ben Gunn, is noisily and enjoyably mad in his hopeless cheese addiction. Steve Brookes’ Squire Trelawney as a sort of demented Michael Portillo is a masterpiece of upper-class twittery. But elsewhere things can get a bit awry. The songs, of which there are many, range, with honourable exceptions, from the barely audible to the sometimes woefully off-key; and not in a comic way. And the pace can seem at times very slow, the logistics of repeatedly moving large numbers of cast as pirates/ tavern customers on and off stage tending to hold up the action. The undertakers, Rick and Mortis, have some very good, and well put over, undertaker gags; but dance routines, if you’re going to have them, really ought to be properly choreographed, high-energy, and tightly rehearsed if they’re going to entertain; and if you can’t achieve that, you really shouldn’t attempt it. There also, sadly, doesn’t seem to be a great deal in this for children to enjoy: the small kids in the audience getting visibly bored and fractious, and not returning after the interval, despite having, as requested, dressed up for the occasion. In all, this is a brave but slightly wonky effort, which has some high points, but, this time, isn’t quite up to the usual high standards of the company.
John Christopher Wood