W.E.A.D.S’s The Little Mermaid – Walkley Ebenezer Methodist Church, 15 February 2024

Review by Claire Taranaski.

Having never reviewed W.E.A.D.S. before last night it was a lovely reminder that we should support community theatre companies and community pantos as not only are we likely to have a lovely evening but also discover some brilliant local talent.

Confirming that The Little Mermaid should be turned into a panto more often, this production featured everything you want from a classic panto including audience participation, a classic slapstick comedy scene and of course a song sheet (giving everyone who was a teenager or 20-something in the 90s a chance to show off a famous dance move).

Whilst Ella Jones as Princess Arial and Amelia Henshaw as Prince Valliant possessed the innocent sweetness you crave from a panto couple; Keith Nockels as King Neptune had all the makings of a great character stage actor; and Darryl Lomas as evil sea witch Octavia had both the best outfit and best musical number of the night with “I’ll Cast A Spell On you” in a classic panto villain performance that gave me worthy flashbacks to Grotbags, is was the comedy performances that made this panto worth going to Walkley for.

Proving that women can play dames equally or even better than men, Becky Mower as Sybil Sushi was everything you want from a panto dame and was hilariously accompanied by Lewis Mower as her son Winkle, dim yet sarcastic and with teenager attitude; and her new employee Hazel played by Abbie Leesley, who was equally hilarious whilst being a voice of reason and straight woman. Lewis and Abbie also had the best dance moves of the whole show.

Further hilarious comedy came from Kirsty May and Hazel Bryce as taxi drivers Harpo and Coco, who I can only describe as female Laurel and Hardy for the 21st century having some of the best comic timing, lines and physical humour of the show and generating many of the biggest laughs. Hazel must also be praised for her quick and comedic reaction to accidentally losing her wig (many professionals might not have reacted so quickly).

All five of the above comedy stars of the panto could quite easily be picked up by and slot easily into one of the bigger panto performing companies in Sheffield so this is a great opportunity to see them before they are.

My favourite scene however was our second visit to the ship in the first half where no one in the audience was safe from the water pistols and turned into a “repeat after me” scene so funny that even Isaac Nockels as Captain Codpiece (who had mastered my favourite sea captain voice ever) could not help breaking into laughter. I must also praise my one of my favourite ever panto props, the yellow taxi which didn’t have a bottom but no one apart from Octavia minds and you don’t need a licence to drive as it’s a panto.

Don’t miss this opportunity to support one of Sheffield’s smaller theatre companies in possibly one of the last opportunities to enjoy the artform this 2023/24 panto season.

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