Grangemouth panto kids horse around in Pinocchio and win by a nose

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There was no doubt who the most popular character of the Young Portonians production of Pinocchio was but everyone tugged on the audience’s heartstrings.

Winalot the pantomime horse stole the show at Grangemouth Town Hall last night, which is hard to do when you have no lines and everyone else is in such top form.

Whether shaking his rear to some rocking tunes, keeking around a corner, quivering in fear at the thought of having a sticking plaster removed or galloping happily across the stage, Winalot won a lot of fans and it was a great job by Leah Strathie and her sister Keira to create such a memorable character.

Horses aside, everyone knows the story of Pinocchio – the wee puppet created by lonely old Geppetto to act as the son he never had, who eventually gets his wish and becomes a real little boy.

Beth Rafferty gave an anything but wooden performance as the title character, performing a beautiful rendition of Tomorrow from the musical Annie and you genuinely felt sorry for her when she was imprisoned by the evil Mr Slobski, played with villainous relish by a bearded Emily Fraser.

As Geppetto, tallest cast member Darren Wilson, complete with a gray barnet, was the portrait of an angst ridden middle aged single parent who will do anything for his stringless wee boy and his rage towards Mr Slobski after learning his son had been sold to him was a sight to behold.

Dozy double act Mr Muttley and Mr Jeffrey were the ones doing a roaring trade in selling off boy puppets and Ingrid Hunter and Emily Reid clearly had a ball playing the baddies – as everyone could see in their boisterous rendition of Bugsy Malone’s Bad Guys.

In recent years the YPs have been breaking with age-old tradition and calling on female cast members to play the pivotal role of the dame, but 2018 saw a return to the usual mouthy bloke in a dress approach and Taylor Lewandowski was a suitably over-the-top, top heavy bird with her nose in everyone else’s business.

Whether telling bad jokes about boobies or belting out Abba’s Super Trooper, Dame Penny Bun was hard to ignore – especially when she came onstage apparently wearing the main character from Finding Nemo on her head.

Appearing on stage following an explosion of beverage spilling proportions, Fairy Godmother Elisabeth Lyons was a sparkling sight to behold and she took no jive from baddies like Muttley and Jeffrey when it came to helping Pinocchio, literally playing her joker in one scene and unleashing a demonic jester to frighten the wrong yins.

Also looking out for the wooden top wean were Oscar the rabbit, played with great passion by a greatest showman suited Olivia Stewart and the little toy soldier, a Sergeant Major Windsor Davies roaring performance by Josh Fyvie.

Apparently imprisoned in an Ikea self assembly cabinet, Charlie Franklin stopped the clocks as Father Time and paved the way for perhaps the strangest and funniest pantomime scene of all time.

Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, back on our screens with their new Big Night Out show, could not have come up with a more hysterical or surreal ten minutes of madness if they tried.

The Punch and Judy show section of the pantomime had the audience gasping for breath, doubled over with laughter.

It felt so wrong to laugh at Punch, a manic Ellis Keay, hitting a wee baby – who had hair like TV presenter Richard Madeley – with a large inflatable hammer and then throw him onto the floor as frantic Judy, Grace Nicholson, and perplexed plod Max Bissett tried to stop him.

Legend has it that an audience member actually wet themselves when Judy’s wee sausage-like leg accidently fell off, but there’s no confirmation on that.

Director Marion Marshall can be proud of the show she and musical director Colin Scott and all the rest of the behind the scenes crew put on – a production with a lot of heart and soul that had people smiling when they left the town hall and walked through the wind and rain to their car parked in Asda.

Choreographers Lynsey Mitchell, Laura Bates and Anne McIntyre also put together a number of showstopping routines for the talented chorus – aka the polka dot posse – to get their feet around, with the standout set piece being the Uptown Funk little tin soldier dance.

Roll on the Young Portonian panto for 2019 and let’s hope Winalot is in that too – the pantomime horse should get his own show and perhaps even a three-movie deal in Hollywood or, at least, Holyrood.

Pinocchio cast:

Beth Raffetry (Pinocchio), Darren Wilson (Geppetto), Taylor Lewandowski (Dame Penny Bun), Olivia Stewart (Oscar the Rabbit), Elisabeth Lyons (Fairy Godmother), Emily Reid (Mr Jeffrey), Ingrid Hunter (Mr Muttley), Leah Strathie and Keira Strathie (Winalot the Horse), Josh Fyvie (Soldier), Emily Fraser/Ellie Johnston (Mr Slobski), Charlie Franklin (Father Time), Ellis Keay (Punch), Grace Nicholson (Judy), Max Bissett (Policeman)

Dancers:

Leah Brodie, Holly Brodie, Charlie Franklin, Lucy Gray, Chloe Grey, Aimee Malloy, Ava Maxwell, Paige McGinlay, Keira Strathie, Shannon Ure

Chorus:

Sophie Bell, Emma Coupar, Chloe Couser, Ruby Forsyth, Olivia Geary, Iona Gillies, Emma Godfrey, Olivia Gray, Aaliyah Henderson, Niamh Irvine, Paige Irvine, Caitlin Kemp, Sophie Keys, Darragh Lees, Andrew MacColl, Duncan MacColl, Hollie McGuire, Jodie Miller, Brooke Morrison, Grace Newton, Summer Noe, Erin Simpson, Brooke Smith, Iris Wilson