The cast crowds in song around Guinevere (Claurien Zanoria) during Ellie King’s British pantomime Sword in the Stone at the Surrey Arts Centre.

King’s latest panto steeped in tradition

Royal Canadian Theatre Company’s Sword in the Stone pays homage to British roots

The third wave of panto for the season, following the Beauty and the Beast by the Fraser Valley Gilbert & Sullivan Society, and White Rock Players Club’s Mother Goose – still running at the Coast Capital Playhouse – has begun.

Ellie King’s The Sword In The Stone rolls into Surrey Arts Centre Theatre (13750 88 Ave.) for a Dec. 16-31 run.

Pantomime connoisseurs who like their seasonal treat – like their candies – with a distinctly British flavour will no doubt wish to sample the version served up by King’s Surrey-based Royal Canadian Theatre Company.

And this year’s show is British to the core, in that it purports to retell the legend of how young Arthur came to be King of the Britons by extracting said blade (Excalibur) from said rock formation.

“Well, it’s a panto,” said King, artistic director and founder of RCTC, who cut her teeth in the idiom in the environs of her native land. “Obviously, because it’s such a well-loved legend there are many versions; one that Camelot was in North Wales, another that it was at the site of Tintagel Castle, in Cornwall.

“In my version, Arthur, with the help of two gnomes, G’Nigel and G’Norman, travels down from Wales to Camelot in Cornwall, because that’s where Excalibur is – and if anyone has a problem with that, I’ll whip out my artistic license and show ’em.”

Lest one think the show might be too mired in history, the Langley resident is quick to point out that Arthur (played by Mandy Tulloch) has grown up with the Welsh family of Widow Blodwyn Jones (Alan Cedargreen in accustomed Dame mode), who operates the local shop/post office, and her children Rhea (Jennifer Campbell) and Dai (White Rock’s Scott Townsend).

“I’ve written in one of the comedy set pieces from the 19th century, set in the store – I always like to include one of those as an homage to the traditions of panto,” King said.

But while the show is a rework of her 1994 Metro Theatre production, there is considerable new material, including an original song, Camelot, co-written by King and her husband and musical director Geoff. She’s also streamlined the show to make it more family friendly, she added.

“I think this year we’ve come in under the two-hour mark – I say I’m trying to do that every year, but this time I think we’ve done it.”

Count on a panto brimming with fun, nevertheless, King said – as well as all the usual silly gags.

There’s a beautiful heroine, Guinevere, played by Claurien Zanoria, a wonderful “wizzard” – Merlin (Bob Wilson), a magic mirror and characters with names likes Owen Money and Amaryllis Plant.

There are Druids, trolls, sheperdesses and at least one dragon: the diminuitive Idris, played by young Holly TenHaaf.

And all the requisite villainy, of course, some of it courtesy of Morgana Le Fay (Kerri Norris), with overall chaos supplied by a distinctly Scottish Demon King (“call him McDemon,” King said) played by son James.

“He’s been after me to do the Demon King as a Scot for years, and last year we had a Scottish good fairy, so I no longer have any excuse not to let him,” she said.

Any doubt that this is a family panto should be dispelled by the presence of two very junior members of the Elchesen clan, Cayleigh (only 2½  – some kind of a record, possibly) and her sister Aeron, 5, who takes the role of G’Nigel.

But there’s also a plenty of experienced panto talent, courtesy of such King regulars as Cedargreen, Norris and Tulloch.

“Mandy is the compleat principal boy,” notes King, a high compliment from one who has worn the tights herself.

“She’s been doing a lot of work with Excalibur. There’s a fair bit of sword fighting in the show, particularly when Arthur fights the ‘ultimate horror’ that lives in the castle… but that’s another story.”

For tickets, call 604-501-5566, or visit www.rctheatreco.com

 

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