By Janet Haire

THE New Strolling Players have evolved the story of King Arthur into a typical pantomime with a handsome King, beautiful princess, fun loving dame, good versus evil, and lots of jokes and songs along the way.

The group have entertained families at Freshwater Memorial Hall for the last 40 years and this year's sell-out performance, with the expert direction and choreography from Martine Burgess was no exception.

The cast excelled in giving a fast moving and amusing show with great songs and super individual characterisations.

The script, written by Kelly Daniel, included some wonderful comedy one-liners with local and topical references which went down well with the audience.

The young King Arthur (Leah Eagles) was confident in this small role, and wowed the crowd when he removed ‘Excalibur’ from the stone.

King Arthur was played by Hayley Richardson who was strong, every inch the hero, and sang well. Rachel Dangerfield portrayed the lovely Guinevere helping to save the day, disguised as one of Arthur's knights.

Considering it was Mark Webber's first pantomime, in the role of Nanny Tykels, he was brilliant, and created a really colourful character in the Union Flag dress. The duet It's Not Unusual with Merlin (Mark Luter) was a highlight and caused much hilarity.

Merlin was called to help on numerous occasions throughout, each time wearing a different outfit. His character being more comical than magical, and it was done with aplomb.

The knights — Sir Percival (Lewis Pavey), Sir Ector (Rachel McGookin), Sir Bedevere (Helen Jones), Lancelot (Jim Kerr), Sir Galahad (Evie Richardson) and Sir Bores (Michael Grist) all played their parts well.

Nikki Luter and Peri Dye were excellent in their roles as the evil Morgana and her son Mordred. Tony Moore, as the Court Jester, used his good voice to great advantage, singing amusing ditties in between scenes.

Other characters were well played by Colin Hart (King Wyn Dai Miller, the miserly father of Guinevere) and Brian Steward (master of ceremonies).

The junior and senior chorus and other members of cast, all worked hard in their different roles.

Credit must go to the musicians, George King on keyboard and Toby Elliott on drums.

There was a great choice of songs including Can't Hurry Love, Dream Lover and the finale, I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas.

The beautiful costumes were the work of Ann Fraser who, along with all cast, production team and backstage crew gave the public a couple of hours of wonderful, family entertainment.