Presented by Tea Tree Players
Review 19 November 2016
Every year Tea Tree Players mount their end-of-year Christmas pantomime and this year, for their 40th year, they are presenting Robinson Crusoe. This type of repeated presentation of a familiar genre such as pantomime begs for comparisons to previous years’ shows – especially the high quality of the last few years. Although possibly not the best Tea Tree Players has produced, this show adds another quality pantomime to their ranks.
Robinson Crusoe follows the titular character and a ragtag bunch of crew as their ship is overrun by pirates and then hit by a storm which shipwrecks them on a seemingly deserted island. Naturally, the story is full of love, cross-dressing, slapstick and surprise engagements but it is unfortunate for the cast that Steve Shaw’s script is so lacklustre. Scenes tend to run a little long and there is little for the ensemble to do.
With so many young performers it would be impossible to single anyone out, but each should be commended for their ability to maintain character onstage and engage with the main scene as it plays out. In smaller roles, Justin Heath and Theresa Dolman provide good laughs whenever they appear – even if those appearances are short.
Rhiannon Shapcott performs well as Robinson but the character does not appear very often onstage despite being the supposed protagonist. Krysten Barnes as Robinson’s love interest is similarly underused but they both show a strong presence on stage with clear delivery. Almost more central to the plot are Robinson’s deckhands, Fore and Aft – played by Timothy Hodgen and Tim Cousins respectively. Their comic work here is fantastic, particularly the well-rehearsed falls in the bar scene. Energy as displayed by these two men is what keeps a panto moving along and they carry that weight proudly.
As the incompetent dogsbody Billy, Stephen Mulady provides plenty of laughs, even when things go wrong on stage. His ability to remain in character even while bumping into and dragging off set is commendable. Michaela Arnold as his unrequited love Doris is similarly amusing and makes the most out of what could have been a dull part. Luckily this is not so and she does well to match with Mulady’s humour.
In the ever-booed role of the panto villain, Russel Byrne shines with a solid stage presence and engaging characterisation. His two sidekicks, Penny Phillips and Lesley Brittan, do well in their roles but do not always match up to the strength of Byrne’s performance. Greater energy would ensure that their performances do not go unnoticed.
Damon Hill is undoubtedly the star of the show in the drag role of Mrs Perkins. From his singing to his snide comments towards Billy, Hill shines in a role he clearly relishes. Jo Allenby and the Monday Club should be commended for their fantastic work on Hill’s costumes; each of which is a fabulous showcase of colour and glamour. Hill’s work on the set design and scenic painting (with Phillips) are also fantastic, brilliantly and cleverly representing several locales.
Sylvia Bolingbroke has worked hard with this cast to make the most of a less-than-spectacular script. Small moments of physical comedy add to the overall quality of the piece and are key to the success of something as silly as pantomime. The cast, crew and company should be proud of the work they have produced here as it brings smiles to audiences heading into the Christmas season.
Reviewed by Nathan Quadrio
Venue: Tea Tree Players Theatre
Season: 18 November – 3 December
Duration: 2 hours
Tickets: $13 – $15
Bookings: online at www.ttplayers.com telephone 82895266 or at the Theatre every Tuesday & Thursday 10.00am to 1.00pm