For Families Reviews

ARABIAN NIGHTS by Dominic Cooke - REC Youth Theatre Company

As ever the REC junior theatre company (ably assisted by 3 young RECers) presented a colourful and entertaining evening. The heat set the scene nicely for these well-known Arabian tales.

Anna Walker played a serene Shahrazad who used all her womanly guile to prolong her stay of execution and Ellie Crauford-Stuart was very engaging as her younger sister.

This play told three of the stories from the 1001 Nights tales.

Ali Baba was told with enthusiasm, the gang of robbers were really funny their gestures and facial expressions were very animated and their leader played by Cyrus Webb rocked the bearded look! The humour was well timed in this section and the cast showed an obvious joy in their telling of this tale to their audience. I thought their depiction of the cave and its treasures was excellent in its concept and execution.

The multi-role playing throughout was excellent. Aidan Rhode and Daniel Walton particularly excelled in using accent and exaggerated physicality to distinguish between characters. Michael Gabbitus played the young beggar with a wonderful sense of fun.

Molly O’Neill was the stand out actor for me. She played each role with great expression. Her voice was strong, expressive and clear and I believed in every character she presented.

The cast seemed to relax into the piece and their confidence grew as the play progressed, they helped each other out throughout the show. However, I would like to have seen all the cast really go for it with exaggerated characterisation.

Lights were used to effectively show differences in location, emotion and reality. The costumes were bright and colourful and the set was simple yet effective.

Kitty Randle’s direction was especially strong in the ensemble pieces. The cave and the mountain were perfect. I think the cast were more than capable of handling a few more of these physical pieces. It gave the group a great opportunity to show their unity.

This was a really enjoyable piece of young people’s theatre. Well done to all involved.

Jayne Marling


The show started with Flanders and Swan’s rip-roaring duet, “Mud, mud, glorious mud”, which set the scene of the hippo theme gloriously. Then Dr. Zeiffal entered stage right, in white lab. coat adorned with small red hippos and boots and hairband to match. The children on the front row, aged about four to six, loved it from the start. There were a total of 21 in the audience, comprising of 10 children and 11 adults.

Initially, I found Dr. Zeiffal’s quasi Eastern European accent hard to understand and too low in volume, that was probably because I was on the back row at the Pauper’s Pit, but my ears soon became accustomed to her voice.

Dr. Zeiffal explained that she is an archaeological scientist and hippo expert. Her quest is to catch a hippo. The children seemed to understand and reacted enthusiastically to her request that they could be her helpers. Then the fun began. Her elaborate gestures and pretended incompetence soon had the youngsters in the front row offering suggestions and coming on the stage to show her how to do it! They reacted excitedly to her apparent stupidity. Here were a group of miniature grown-ups, willing to help this “stupid” woman! Her interaction with them was brilliant and soon the adults, albeit still seated, joined in the fun.

The climax came when a bearded man in hippo costume dashed across the stage behind her. The children screamed and pointed “Look behind you!” a pantomime experience in a small setting. This happened on numerous occasions during the performance. Later the Hippo, minus hippo mask, became Dr. Zeigal and an exaggerated chase to catch the hippo was also encouraged by the shouting and pointing of both children and adults.

Mistake after mistake was superbly executed. Children became part of the act which culminated in a large cardboard box, (one of many) being upturned resulting in a snowfall of polystyrene beads falling like confetti. The children were asked to help clear this up, but forgetting the reason for their task, it ended up in a grand snowball fight.

Dr. Zeigal had explained that the meaning of hippopotamus is water horse, which is a strange comparison. The entire audience left with huge smiles on their faces, a satisfying finale to a well-executed and hilarious show.

It wasn’t until I got outside, that I it dawned on me that there was a possible link between doctors and hippos and that is the oath that doctors take when they first start practising, the Hippocratic oath!

Well done to the production company, Mouths of Lions; it was a fantastic, very funny, enjoyable and imaginative performance.

Jackie Corrigan


This is a review from 2015

Excitedly, I joined the sell-out audience at the Palace Hotel and sat alongside a number of budding-magicians on table 7 for an evening of close-up magic. A palpable buzz grew louder as the anticipation increased. We were convinced we would spot the scams. We were soon to get within touching distance of the trickery and figure it all out!

Or so we thought. Not the getting up-close, but the figuring out. We were baffled from the start as the first of eight members of the High Peak Magic Society visited our table with dextrous skills a-plenty using a variety of different routines, each well chosen to complement the personality of the magician.

Although there were familiar slick rope routines and razor-sharp sleight-of-hand card tricks, more unusual props like rubber bands and dining room implements were cunningly used. We saw bent forks and even one bent 50 pence piece.

Compere Alan introduced the round-robin of fast-fingered performers as they spun around the room amazing every careful table observer, each trick at the end of the night as smooth and professionally delivered as the first. Shuffled in amongst the pack of Neil, Danny, Ian, Tony, Bernie and Ollie were Chris, the 2012 British Close-up Champion and the esoteric Mystic Monk.

So, did table 7 figure out any of the tricks hear you ask? Absolutely not! And I was stunned after correctly choosing a card from an invisible pack of cards that were shuffled by someone else before being transmogrified into a real card from a real pack. Weird, but fascinatingly entertaining.

This is truly a show not to blink and miss out on. Great fun from the masters of misdirection.

David Carlisle

GRANNY GRUMP - 2 Boards & A Passion Theatre Company

Granny Grump is a family musical about two children Maisie and George played by Rowan Wilkie and Stuart Crowther who decide that they need find out why their beloved Granny has become so sad and help her to become her old cheerful self again. Granny Grump is played by Kathryn Ward who also wrote the script. The songs were written by Colin C.G.N. Ward with lyrical contributions from Kathryn.

The children's bright idea is to persuade Granny to tell them stories from her past life. By doing this the children discover is that Granny used to be a superhero called Daring Doris who had adventures going on Safari and Scuba Diving in the Red Sea. But Granny has forgotten that she is a super hero because she is worrying about all the bad things happening in the world.

The show has some catchy original songs which I think are called "You can always rely on Grandma", "The sun will come again" and "Fly High". It includes some audience participation with the children in the audience which inevitably solicited some delightful and unexpected responses. The stage set is very cheerful and and all the performers act and sing well. I especially enjoyed the songs and the scuba diving and safari fantasy sequences.

In case you are worried about how it turn's out, the play has a happy ending and the children are successful in cheering up Granny Grump and Daring Doris rides again!!

Alex Watts


In an energetic blend of character comedy and props-based illusion Uzbek magician Seska took to the Paupers Pit stage in a blare of backing tracks and high-fives. Clearly slightly put out by the small size of the Carnival Day family audience, he nonetheless worked hard with the crowd he had, and particularly elicited much entertainment from the sole child in the audience, young Harry, with a timeless repertoire of toilet humour, guaranteed to raise a smile from the most reticent 10-year-old (and many a grown-up). The tricks were similarly delivered with aplomb – he even managed to extract one of my prized blue shoes from me and apparently pour milk into it, only for it to emerge (I’m glad to say) unscathed. It would have been interesting to see how the act work with the bigger crowd he was hoping for, but this was nonetheless a disarmingly fun 45 minutes.

Robbie Carnegie


Underground Venues 6, 10, 16 & 23 July

Any fears you might have had about July not being panto season will be quickly dispelled by a visit to the Pauper's Pit this Fringe. The Buxton Drama League has a lot of experience when it comes to producing family pantos and all the traditional ingredients are confidently managed by the cast of four.

As you might expect (and hope) Peter Stubbington repeats the Dame role that he has made his own in recent years and, as ever, 'she' is looking for love and a man to make life complete. Fortunately Ian was sitting in the front row and his chances looked good until the dashing Captain Icarus (Jill Neves) turned up.

Theseus (Maria Carnegie) is the thigh-slapping hero: adopted by an ordinary farming family he is unaware that he is in fact the rightful King of Crete - rather than the presumptive and evil King Minos (also Peter Stubbington).

In due course Theseus gets to meet Ariadne (Sally Shaw) who is the daughter of Minos. Along the way much fun is had over Minos' agents - Telos and Astorri - and the prospect of ending up in the Labyrinth to be confronted by the Minotaur (Jill Neves again) is never far away. The cast also has the chance to demonstrate collective mastery of the kazoo.

There is all the usual opportunity for the audience to shout out - and you better had.

The script was written by Robbie Carnegie (based on the original pantomime he wrote with Jason Stevens) and he also directed, ensuring that the pace and energy was maintained. (So pacey indeed that at times the plucky cast struggled to keep up with the costume changes - but this all added to the fun).

Sarah Fanthorpe-Smith managed the sound and lighting smoothly (especially for Captain Icarus' night flight) and Sally Shaw made the costumes. You may also bump into members of the Drama League when the Shakespeare Jukebox takes to the streets from 10 July.

Keith Savage

THE ZOO AND COX & BOX - PB Theatricals

As the sun began its decent over The Pavillion gardens, PB theatricals welcomed its audience to this idyllic setting with a live piano and delightful introduction from stage director, Pamela Leighton-Bilik. Whilst their pianist played music to suit the beauty of the occasion, the actors readied themselves behind the improvised back stage area.

There was a buzz on the green, as a crowd of 30 plus gathered, all eager and excited to see what this local youth theatre would produce. With a double bill of Cox and Box followed by The Zoo this young troupe had a challenge on their theatrical hands however they did not disappoint.

Box and Cox tells the story of two men in direct competition with each other for everything but an unwanted love interest. After a tepid start the show came alive with the introduction of Mr Box played by James Chetwood. Surely a future star this young actor held the stage with precision comic timing and the voice of a west end character actor. His voice was matched by his arch rival, Mr Cox being played by James Benson. Without being too much of a spoiler, the scene of Box singing a sweet lullaby to his favourite bacon rasher stands out for its comedy whilst the battle song between the champion printer of Box and The expert hatter of Cox was delivered in style. Both scenes a triumph in their own right, Box and Cox had set the bar, now for The Zoo....

The Zoo began with an impressive ensemble scene as all 7 cast members took to the stage. An accomplished group of singers, the stand out performers were Alice Shaw playing the part of Eliza Smith, a refreshment seller and Hana Beswick-Jones, Laetitia the grocers daughter. The former's solo sending the audience into a rapturous applause. The Zoo combined comedy and song to deliver a satisfying end to what was a fantastic start to the evening. Both performances kept this audience entertained throughout and with an age range of 16-23, this young collective of stage actors and singers are not to be underestimated. From the chorus sing songs to the individual brilliance of several, this is a guaranteed evening of fun and frolic. Marry this wit the lyrics of Sullivan and co and this double show is not to b missed.

Tom Carter