It can take a new stage company a long while to establish itself and build a reputation.
YOUtheatre, a semi-professional company formed only last year, hit the ground running and sold out Epsom Playhouse for at least some performances of its first pantomime.
Deservedly so – it was as bright and polished as many professional shows.
Much of the secret was in the casting. Director, Pat Martin and co-director Danny Willis had managed to attract an 'A Team' of talented local performers, some vastly experienced, others brightly fresh and young.
The audience I sat among was so much in tune with the action that the 'goodies' were cheered, 'baddies' booed and responses given almost before the actors delivered their lines. Cue frighteningly made-up Bob Hamilton, the booming-voiced Goblin King whose modest ambition was to take over the world. One look, one word from him and he was yelled at by everyone in the auditorium. Olly Reeves, in a fetching gold outfit, with a harp strapped to his back and prone to petulant outbursts was not far behind in the 'hamming it up' stakes. Geoff Brown played Mother Bean, the dame, to perfection. Never ridiculously over-the-top in his approach, he made the most of a succession of wigs and outfits along with hideous face-paint to project his character.
Tirelessly energetic Andrew Robinson knew exactly how to get the audience on his side, whether though his generally cheerful approach or occasional downcast look. Comically clad Pat Bittlestone and Sarah Openshaw made an excellent comedy act as a pair of inept fairies.
Among all these oddballs, there had to be at least some relatively straight characters. Jo Cullen ideally fitted the role of principal boy Jack, eager to restore his family's fortunes and, along the way, having to slay the giant (scarily voiced by an unseen Rodney Hutchins). Lydia Marcazzo was equally earnest as Jill, the often garrulous, sometimes nagging, love of his life.
The cow – her name changed for each performance but always concealed Jo Epps and Paula Fitzgerald -– was welcomed whenever she appeared.
Elizabeth Curtin and Paul Falconer did everything needed of them as, respectively, the Fairy Queen and the hard-hearted Squire.
Dancing by the youngsters was creditable but the more mature troupe, including choreographer Aimee Clark, was outstanding, most notably in the Here Come The Girls routine. James Beal and Robin Goddard, billed as 'The Boy Band', gave faultless support.
This was, in every respect, a five star production.