A riot started at Churt Village Hall this week night – a riot of colour, laughter and energy. Churt Amateur Dramatic Society’s famous annual panto took to the stage. 

Ruth Ahmed, in her typically inventive way has taken an already good panto script and thrown her magic dust at it.

From the moment the enchanting Fairy Liquid stepped before us after a nuclear grade flash/bang to the second the curtain closed on all that magic the audience was treated to a truly glorious evening’s entertainment.

This was the tale of Pinocchio, but in a crazy parallel universe called Pantoland, where the wonderfully conceived characters leave us helpless with laughter from one crazy moment to the next. 

A stream of jokes run alongside the story, some very witty and some blissfully panto bad. The music is wide-ranging and lustily performed. But the highest accolade for production values has to go to the costumes – they were spectacular – if there were Surrey Oscars, Annik Angwin and Ruth herself would win one.

All the performers were at the top of their game. It was great to see a mix of old and new CADS members, there is something special about seeing familiar faces of adults who were once teenagers and teenagers who were once children coming back to have the time of their lives on the Churt stage. 

Fairy Liquid (Sian Gray at her most delightful) ensured that good triumphed over bad. The Amero clan generously gave us five of their number. Beth was Pantoland’s Principal Boy, handsome/beautiful and brave. Richard was our villain, the gloriously grubby Fairy Solid and we LOVED to hate him, Lynden was the side-splittingly funny megaphone-voiced Flummox (Mayor’s Herald), Dylan the title character of Pinocchio, cleverly played as a badly behaved, bad tempered teenager and finally Bella, clearly enjoying her second appearance as a member of the Ensemble.

Newcomers Alexandra Munoz and Wing-Lam Wong (Sabrina) are a real find for the group. Alexandra was superb as the energetic Jiminy – keeping the audience entertained and involved whenever she appeared. 

Talented Sabrina gave us two contrasting and memorable characters – the daft Mr Elbow and the sinister Ringmaster. 

Assisting the chief villain was a pair of cunning creatures, much admired members of the troupe Ella Couchman (Fox) and Mia Bicknell (Cat)– looking fabulous in their fox and cat costumes. This was a terrific double act, full of fun. 

A new Dame graced, nay, dominated this production. Chris Deacon, more usually the baddie, made an unforgettable Dame Geppetto. No bulked up, rotund Dame this, but an extremely tall one, magnificently attired in Barbie pink with what looked like feather boas for eyelashes and glitter glue for lipstick – a performance worth the ticket price alone, thank you, Chris.

The principals were supported by an enthusiastic Ensemble of madcap Pantoland characters in kaleidoscope colours, giving us every ounce of their energy. 

As well as Bella, we saw Kayte and Levi Burns, Lexie Ewart, Cassian Gray, Bethany Nicheolson, Beatrix Powell, April Showers, Bella Smith, Maggie Stock, Matthew Wells and Alex Yeldham. Special thanks to April and Matthew for their wonderful musicianship.

A talented backstage and technical crew kept the show on the road and a friendly front of house team looked after us beautifully. Great job everybody.

Tickets (adults £12.50, concessions £8) are available for CADS’ three remaining performances of Pinocchio, on Friday at 7.30pm and Saturday at 2.30pm and 7.30pm, all in Churt Village Hall. Book online at www.ticketsource.co.uk or in person At Miscellanea of Churt.

Review by Rena Bassar