Volume 12 Week 5

Thursday, Dec. 17


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(Posted 6:30 a.m., Dec. 20)

Rumplestiltskin panto a holiday treat for the entire family
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Rumplestiltskin arrives on the scene to collect his debt from Grettle, the poor goose girl. Fred Sherwin/Photo

On a weekend when it seems like the whole world is talking about Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it’s nice to know that there is still a place in the entertainment world for amateur theatre and an appreciation for traditional English pantomime.

One theatrical group that continues to keep that tradition alive is the East End Theatre company which recently wrapped up their production of Rumplstiltskin at the Shenkman Arts Centre.

Nothing beats traditional English panto for sheer entertainment, and nobody does it better than the East End Theatre company which has been staging traditional holiday pantos for the better part of 15 years.

Rumplestiltskin is one of 23 traditional pantomimies written by Norman Robbins and adapted for the local stage by with a slew of topical references.

Like all traditional pantomimes, the East End Theatre production incorporated song, dance, buffoonery, slapstick, cross-dressing, in-jokes and audience participation.

True to the genre, Rumplestiltskin has a villain, in fact, two; a dame, which is a male actor dressed in drag; a hero, which is traditionally a female actor cast in the male lead; and a heroine.

If you’ve forgotten the story it’s about a young girl who is unwittingly forced to spin straw into gold after her father brags to the king to make himself sound superior. Locked inside a tower with a spinning wheel, the girl is forced into making a deal with an evil gnome named Rumplestiltzkin who agrees to produce the gold in exchange for her first born child.

In the East End Theatre version, the girl takes part in a word play game where a four letter word is transformed into another four letter word one letter at a time. In this way, she turns the word “flax” into “gold”.

When she tells her mother about her newly-discovered ability, her mother boasts about it to the King who has driven the kingdom into bankruptcy and is looking to marry his son to a rich widow. The girl seems the perfect solution to all of the King’s problems, but there is someone else who is looking to get rich quick, the dastardly Baron Bloodshot..

After Grettle is locked in a tower with a spinning well and a pile of flax, she is visited by Rumplestiltskin who makes a deal for her first born. When the gnome returns to the kingdom at the end of a three year deadline, he gives Grettle, who is now married to the new king, an out – if she can find out his name, he will let her keep her son.

When Rumplestiltskin lets the audience in on his secret, he’s overheard by Sammy Slow-Poke, the village fool, who passes the information on to Grettle and saves the day.

The two-hour production was chock full of one-liners and over the top performances that had the audience laughing out loud.
Peter Frayne was especially hilarious as Mother Hubbard.

The East End Theatre veteran was cast in the role of the dame after playing a series of villains. That role was taken on by David McNorgan, another East End Theatre veteran who was cast as Baron Bloodshot.

McNorgan was in his element as the character who not only draws the ire of the audience, but invites it.

The loudest boos were reserved for Rumplestiltskin. who was played by Kim Reynolds. How can you not hate a maniacal green gnome who tricks the heroine into letting him steal her son. Reynolds was brilliantly diabolical in the role.

The surprise performance of the night was turned in by Angel Morden as Grettle, the poor goose girl who becomes Queen.
According to the program, it was Morden’s first performance in front of a large audience. She was absolutely wonderful, holding her own and commanding the stage throughout the evening.

Other performances that stood out included Lili Miller as Prince Roland, and Jim Tanner in the dual role of King Marmaduke and Major Domo.

The other cast members included Kevin Rockel as Slow-Poke; Nick St-François as The Baron’s guard Smash; Sarah Kennedy as the Prince’s squire, Alan; and Jessica Rockel as Alan’s sweetheart Rosamund.

I almost forgot to mention the villagers and minions played by Kyle Magee, Leah Attree, Amielle V., Cole Acker, Serena Reynolds and Dylan and Rian Adamson and the great job down by the director Jeanette Smith and her assistant and East End Theatre founder Diane Barnett..

(This story was made possible thanks to their generous support of our local business partners.)



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