Longridge Towers senior students show they can talk to the animals
Squawks, oinks, seal calls and the occasional woof filled the Maltings main house when Longridge Towers School returned with their senior school production, Doctor Dolittle.
Based on the much-loved stories by Hugh Lofting, the show told the tale of John Dolittle, village doctor in Puddleby-on-the-Marsh, who discovers his true vocation lies in treating animal, rather than human, patients.
Archie Brewis shone in the lead role of Dolittle with suavity and wit. The show opened with the doctor in the dock, wrongly accused of murder after being spotted assisting a runaway seal (disguised as a woman) by throwing her into the ocean.
This fairly sets the scene and tone of the show, an hugely entertaining far-fetched fable of human compassion towards the animal kingdom.
Dolittle was ably accompanied throughout by Polynesia the parrot, voiced and puppeteered with skill by Sarah Walker.
Jaimee Lowson gave a standout performance, both dramatically and musically, in the role of cheeky Irish maid Matilda Mugg, supported very confidently by Scarlett Gatiss as local lad Tommy Stubbins. Oliver Armstrong impressed as bombastic magistrate General Bellowes, helped by his simple friend Dymme-Witt (Aidan Cunningham).
Aside from learning several hundred animal languages and embarking on a quest to find the giant pink sea snail (a creature whose appearance was both alarming and amusing), Dolittle also found time to fall romantically for Emma Fairfax, his nemesis’s daughter, with Lucy Turner in superb voice playing opposite Archie.
Gabriel Rothera and Gabi Sidal too made a charming couple as circus owners Albert and Gertie Blossom, and Dolittle’s mysterious, exotic pen pal, Straight Arrow, was pitched perfectly by Sean Lee.
All of the principals were ably supported by a talented ensemble, including Sean Capes, Jemima Cowan, William Allis, Kate Fergusson, Elsa Hogg, Lily Lowe and Francesca Ayling.
Perhaps most memorable was the extensive cast of animals, with puppets created and operated by pupils.
A warmth and good cheer permeated the whole theatre, as Longridge once again entertained and delighted.
Eloise Duthie and Olivia Prentice worked tirelessly and impressed as dog Jip and Chee-Chee the cheeky monkey, with Beth Whitmore an energetic Gub-Gub the pig.
The extremely realistic seal (whose appearance drew gasps from the audience) was puppeteered sensitively by Thomas Burns, and of course the audience were thrilled with the arrival of Elizabeth Allis and Rowan McAlpine as that rarest of breeds, the two-headed lama, Pushmi-Pullyu. Veer Nijjar and Annie Blackman brought to life Toggle the myopic horse and Mildred the arthritic cow, and George Nelson made a very Churchillian Rufus the bulldog.
The whole performance was a fun family show from start to finish, driven by the superb live band.
Longridge pupils staffed the lighting box and backstage too, with Alexander McCormick commanding as Stage Manager, Kacey Van Der Walt on special effects, and Jake Ward, Henry Mosley, William Dakers and Lucy Westthorp running sound and lighting.
The show’s programme made reference to the wider community of Longridge Towers School, and the audience might have been forgiven for extending this to the rural, animal kingdom too.