Recently, a friend of mine convinced me to go with her to a variety performance being put on by the Modern Languages department of Sawtry Community College.
The show - titled Panache Panache - involved the various Languages classes engaging in skits, dance numbers and so on with various levels of theming on the language said class or club was centred on.
Now, with a premise like that things were never going to be perfect, but that's beside the point. This event had an entrance fee and is, as such, as open to criticism as any event. So what was it like? Well...
The show's headline act was a modern version of Cinderella performed in German with subtitles (The lines were projected onto a screen beside the stage in English). For the most part, this was a largely humorous affair with appropriate and surprisingly good performances from most of the cast.
However, a major hole in Cinderella was - er - Cinderella (Rebecca Ayelett). Ayelett was poorly cast - being described as the most beautiful girl in the world when every other girl on-stage was noticeably better-looking lost the part a lot of credibility. As far as I can tell through conversations with the cast, this wasn't one of the jokes, it was a gaffe.
Ayelett's acting also left a lot to be desired. Audience members were frustrated by wildly varying volume levels, and to make matters worse, emoting is apparently not a skill Ayelett possesses. Lines such as "A party, but not for me" were delivered with the same emotion as lines like "I'm having a great time [at this party]".
On the upside, the performance of Sam Cattell as a Fairy in Training received an appreciative reaction from the audience whenever he was on stage. Cattell was able to mix the overt campness of his part with his own inherent masculinity and deliver lines in a humorous tone that delighted audiences.
Other notable performances came from the Chavvy Sisters - so called as they were quite noticeably not ugly, but were dressed as chavs. Playing up the hilarity of their lines, situations and characters, they elicited a laugh in every scene they appeared in.
The evening's Compere, Vorn, was an audience favourite thanks to an easy-going attitude and a great selection of hilarious jokes. Vorn received whoops and cheers whenever he appeared and helped to bring the quality of the evening up significantly.
A truly enjoyable skit was put on by the Italian Club. In it, Gemma Ronzano portrayed a girl trying to buy Ice Cream from an Ice Cream van. All the dialogue was delivered in Italian, with audience favourites Anthony Chamberlain and Scott Parmenter sitting at either sides of the stage portraying Mafia members translating for the audience.
Parmenter and Chamberlain received huge laughs from the audience, notably due to Chamberlain's character being portrayed as a fool, with Parmenter, frustrated, correcting him on several occasions - accompanied by a swift slap and an exclamation of "Stupido" in a thick Italian accent.
Ronzano - who, helpfully, has Italian blood - was great, delivering a frustrated closing line at hilariously high speed and covering holes in the performance - once again the failings of Ayelett who also appeared here - perfectly.
The other notable performance involved Compere, Vorn. In a break from introducing other acts, Vorn was involved in a completely straight-faced performance of "The Hokey Cokey" entirely in German ("Das Hokey Cokey"). A huge amount of humour came from the fact that whilst "The Hokey Cokey" is usually performed with smiles and laughter, using upbeat music, this version reflected the German language - hard, stern and simple. The audience lapped it up. Hilarious.
Other acts were mostly noticeable through their blandness - one such act of unoriginality was a conversation Spanish which was translated after each line into English. There was nothing in the least bit interesting about any of it, it was much the same as how students learning how to speak a Modern Language in the classroom, prompting the belief that it came from just that - completely unchanged.
Various attempts were made to involve the audience, almost all failed with one notable exception in the form of a "Das Hokey Cokey" reprise, which had the whole audience on their feet.
Panache Panache was a bit of a laugh. It would have been much better, but there were noticeable holes in the show where the quality of the acts fell off completely. Holes in the cast prevented some of the better performances from living up to their potential, but it was a mostly enjoyable evening.
The service was also pretty good. I send my thanks to Emma Coates and Hannah Pritchard for serving our drinks - even though we were skulking in the back with no table.