Review: Knight Fever, Buxton Drama League

Buxton Drama League and its predominately Burbage audiences know what to expect of each other other and for this year’s show both cast and crowd were on top form from the word go.

No matter that much of the inspiration for the songs and the jokes dated from the 1970s (and earlier – Patsy Cline anyone?) Knight Fever takes as its starting point King Arthur and his punning knights – Sir Cumference (Sarah Bentley) and Sir Uptitious (Elyse Marling). Thereafter any similarity with the well-loved legend was purely accidental.

The brilliantly costumed chorus got things underway with a couple of verses of ‘Night Fever’ before the arrival of panto vet Peter Stubbington who had relinquished his role as Dame to be Lester the Jester, entertainer to King Arthur’s court. A joke about playing frisbee with his dog set the tone for a groanful evening – and the worse the joke the louder the delighted audience groaned.

Dick Silson relished the role of Dame Doris Dumpling and was awful enough without overstepping the mark when it came to taste (this was especially evident in some capers that revolved around an attack of noxious flatulence. Incidentally a life-sized portrait of Dick is exhibited at Buxton Museum currently). Other Burbage regulars included Tim Warburton, as the not-quite-heroic King Arthur, Sally Shaw (Queen Guinevere) and Paul Harrison – hidden behind a very uncomfortable looking cloak and beard as a hapless Merlin.

Every panto needs a villain or two and here we had a splendid pair in the shape of The Black Knight (Robbie Carnegie) and Chardonnay la Fay (Emma Taylor who was suitably estuarine). They arrived with a strutting version of “Paint It Black” and were properly booed at every appearance.

If you need villainy you also need love and we had that in the self-assured and charming performances of Princess Anna (Ellie Craufurd-Stuart) and Justin Thyme (Matthew Bowers). It is always good to see some young blood and if the older hands were paying close enough attention they would have learned something. The cast was completed by the Lady of the Lake (Maria Carnegie) suitably delicate and slightly absent – in contrast to the legendary figure.

The production was tightly directed by Jayne Marling; the impressive costumes were designed by Sally Shaw; Fred Rolland led the band and Sarah Fanthorpe-Smith designed the set which added to the energy and atmosphere. The sound and lighting crews did their jobs efficiently and unobtrusively.

All in all one of the best Burbage pantos of recent years. Well done everyone!

Keith Savage