Review: Alice in Jumbleland by the Pocahontas Players

Kelsie Hall (Alice) with  Jim Race (Mustapha Look) and Simon Boston (Mustapha Fortune)
Kelsie Hall (Alice) with Jim Race (Mustapha Look) and Simon Boston (Mustapha Fortune)

The lights dim and the curtain rises on a whirlwind world tour of Jumbleland with the ever enthusiastic Pocahontas Players or PP’s as they are affectionately known locally.

This being only my second visit to a production by this local group it is already clear that they have fantastic local and family support, but their reach and charm goes beyond just friends and family and on this second viewing it is clear to see why.

I was raised on local community theatre and my own first performance on stage was a local ‘gangshow’ and this fun production had a very familiar feel of some lovely set pieces and classic ‘known’ theatre scenes all intertwined with a nice thread of a lost in time story.

The first scene introduced us to an energetic and apparently new dimension for the ‘players’ the young dance troupe the ‘youngstarz’ and they lived up to this name with some well executed moves to some appropriate choreography from Carla Pooley.

The clear singing voices throughout were nice to hear and it is a small shame that on some of the musical tracks originals rather than backings are used which tend to hide the potential of some clearly talented singers, there were a few sound issues, but on further investigation I would say these were due to the fact that the usual sound operator was unfortunately indisposed and to learn that Dave Curtis had to operate both lights and sound at short notice he deserves special mention for working through superbly well.

We meet the very nicely played Alice (Kelsie Hall) straight away and her solid performance throughout allows others to bounce off her nicely, none more so than the flying white rabbit (Joshy Chilvers) who also co-directs, he arrives in a wonderful entrance breaking the fourth wall instantly and cementing his place firmly with the audience, his training for Starlight Express clearly has stayed with him and he ’wheelie’ works best when matching the energy his skates give him to his fast paced delivery and adlibs!

The shows ‘baddie’ soon enters (from the right side!) and after a slow start it is clear Juliet Slight warmed throughout the performance to give a great account as the Queen of Hearts, finding that hard balance between villain of the piece and remaining likeable to the audience. A strong performance from clear crowd favourite Gary Pearce as the traditional dame has the audience banking on him for some solid laughs, also adding to the comedic element was the nicely written role of ‘Hump’n’stink’ with Ryan Chilvers making the most of every entrance and building a great running gag through to its finale!

Other mentions must go to Elaine Pygall with some lovely cameos throughout, Warren Marshall for some great character work, the three ‘shakes’ for keeping the chorus energy going, the great double act of Mustapha Look and Mustapha Fortune played wonderfully by Jim Race and Simon Boston for their fast paced and ad libbing to really engage and involve the audience, and to Dan Jackson and Abbie Marshall for attempting to maintain one of the hardest regional accents for anyone!

Overall though this works best as a team piece and must be acknowledged to its success as an ensemble piece with some fab moments from everyone both on stage and clearly behind the scenes as well. Even the traditional pantomime horse has some more personality than should be expected played nicely by Jemma Greef and Leesa Espley.

It is clear to see that community theatre in Heacham will be alive and well for a few generations to come if this is anything to go by. Great work to all and thank-you for a great night to a well written, strongly directed team performance.