“… Oh yes it is!!”
On Saturday evening, from the back of the audience in the little Lecture Hall in Loddon, my brother and I were having a brilliant time. About two thirds of the way through The Loddon Players’ annual pantomime we turned to each other, shaking our heads in slight disbelief, and just laughed. We decided there and then we were on a ‘panto high’ and were seriously wondering if there were ways you could bottle the atmosphere and sell it as holistic stress relief.
And that was when I realised why the Loddon panto is so popular, year after year. Instantly welcoming, warming, and enjoyable, it is like meeting up with an old friend who always reminds you of the best way to let your hair down. The Loddon Players have perfected the panto formula with their own blend of loveable characters, local gags, audience participation, mild and engineered chaos, and familiar faces. Each year audiences turn up knowing exactly what to expect and this year, with ‘Mother Goose’, they will not be disappointed.
Despite being soul warmingly familiar and loveable the local troupe has still managed to breathe new zest into the show. This year, among many other highlights, the audience were treated to a dazzling and extravagant rendition of Shirley Bassey’s ‘Get The Party Started’, and an inspired version of ‘Devil In Disguise’.
The Loddon Players are a diverse bunch; alongside the numerous local ‘celebrities’ that create that homely feel to each pantomime performance there is a whole host of fantastic young talent. Two key talents are Matthew Moore whose natural comic timing and command of the stage rivals that of Maureen Larkin, and Daniel Bird who seems to have perfected the best evil laugh this side of Norwich. There are also several beautiful vocal performances, ensuring The Loddon Players have a well rounded and talented cast. And to top it off, they are supported brilliantly by dancers from Vicky Codling’s Funky Feet School of Dancing and Performing Arts.
The real magic behind The Loddon Players popularity is the chemistry of the cast and crew. After Saturday’s performance some of the cast had gathered at the White Horse in Chedgrave and it was here I found myself delicately trying to explain my opinions to one Mr Orpet. Essentially it was that, and I mean this in the kindest way, the pantomime performances never feel polished, perfected or overworked. The point I was attempting, rather clumsily, to make is that is what makes The Loddon Players’ performances tick all the right boxes. The real humour and warmth comes from the improvisation, the camaraderie between the cast and the crew, and the rapport with their audience. As an audience member you know the cast are having a lot of fun… and that means the audience have fun. A simple chemistry but one that The Loddon Players have perfected.
With its local jokes and familiar faces this really is local community entertainment at its best. It wouldn’t work anywhere other than Loddon and the surrounding area and that makes it so special and unique.
I really wish I could give everybody the individual praise they deserve but right here I feel it is more appropriate to recognise the collective achievements of The Loddon Players. From the performers to the stage crew, from those running front of house to the audience, there is a feeling that everyone is involved. And that extended family attitude, the open and entertaining community spirit of it all, is something that The Loddon Eye truly admires.
This year’s pantomime, ‘Mother Goose’, is now entering its final week. If you’ve not already been to see it I urge you to try and make it to either Thursday, Friday, or Saturday’s performances (see the events page for more details). To enquire about ticket availability and reservations call 01508 520162 between 9am-9pm. Tickets cost £6 or £5 for concessions.