USLES are the University of Sheffield Light Entertainment Society. They put on lightly entertaining shows bi-annually. Shows are most often pantomimes
, but have also included sketch shows
and comedy plays. All proceeds are donated to a charity chosen by the members of the society. Pantomimes are often performed to local children, including schools and special needs groups, with a somewhat edited script note
The society was founded in Summer 2007, and started off borrowing scripts from a sister society. In their first year they put on a pantomime version of "Jack and the Beanstalk
" and a comedy play of Dracula
the following Spring.
In 2008 they started performing plays written by members of the society, and have continued this practice to the present day.
Shows USLES have written and performed:
- Snow White (Christmas 2008, by Edward H. Matthews, Chess Holdrick & Laura Daly)
- Peter Pan (Spring 2009, by Sam O'nion & Colin Whittle)
- Aladdin (Christmas 2009, by Arkady English & Amy Palmer, with additional storyboarding by Rachael Holden)
- Beauty and the Beast (Spring 2010, by Becci Burley)
- Cinderella (Christmas 2010, by Edward H. Matthews & Laura Daly, with storyboarding by Chess Holdrick)
- Frankenstein (Spring 2011, by Matt Voice & Arkady English)
- The Little Mermaid (Spring 2011, by Tim Skew & Sarah Browncross)
- Dick Whittington (Christmas 2011, by Jen Peake, with Arkady English, Tim Norwood, and Matt Voice)
- Beware of the Storybook Wolves (Spring 2012, by Amy Claire Thompson)
- Titus (Spring 2012, by Tim Norwood)
- A Christmas Carol (Christmas 2012, by Matt Voice)
- Singalongapocalypse (Spring 2013, by Jen Peake)
- The Tempest (Spring 2013, by Tim Norwood)
- The Snow Queen (Christmas 2013, by Tim Norwood)
As most society members (and especially the writers) are total nerds, USLES plays are full of tropes.
USLES provides examples of:
- Abduction Is Love: USLES villains often believe this, or try to exploit it. Abanazar in Aladdin in particular; he keeps Princess Amira in chains to try to force her to marry him. Leonardo in Beauty and the Beast also seems to like this trope, as he handcuffs Belle to his kitchen sink. Naturally, these villains are proved wrong.
- Abhorrent Admirer: In the grand tradition of pantomime dames, almost every man in a dress in a USLES production becomes this. Not to mention male villains such as Abanazar from Aladdin, who are often this in their pursuit of the female lead.
- Absent-Minded Professor: Cinderella 's father, Jimothy Jamworth, was pretty much a Professor Farnsworth Captain Ersatz. Professor Banbury from 2011's Frankenstein also epitomises this trope.
- Beta Couple: A standard feature of any USLES pantomime - the main love interests usually have friends, advisors or servants who fall for each other. Sometimes this doesn't happen until the very end of the show, when it can also end up as a case of Pair the Spares.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Frequently happens when pantomime characters talk to the audience. "Hello, boys and girls!" is probably one of the most commonly used phrases in USLES scripts (and even when the audience is made up of students and the casts' parents, they are still 'boys and girls'). Sometimes subverted, as in 2010's Cinderella when Prince Charming and Dandini describe things which the audience can't see because they are "conveniently located by the fourth wall."
- Covered in Gunge: Slosh scenes are a staple of USLES pantomimes (and indeed most traditional pantomimes) - a scene in which two or more comic relief characters do something perfectly innocent like bake a cake or put on make-up, but end up covered in whatever messy stuff they're using.
- Crosscast Role: A standard feature of pantomime. Because any person who wants a role in a production is given one, some people end up not playing their own gender in non-pantomime productions too.
- Deadpan Snarker: Advisors to flamboyant, oversexed or just plain stupid royals tend to be this. Dandini from 2010's Cinderella is probably the most notable.
- Double Entendre: Although a lot of the humour in USLES student pantos tends more towards single entendre, notable examples include:
- Evil Is Petty: In the 2009 productin of Aladdin which was perfomed for a group of schoolchildren, Abanazar (the bad guy) threatened the audience with double homework every day.
- Filk Song: Many musical numbers are set to tunes from musicals, classic hits, or cheesy pop.
- Ho Yay: In 2011's performance of Dick Whittington, the title character rejected the advances of the ditzy Alice in the final scene. When she protested that there had to be a happy ending, he put his arm around the cook's son, Billy, and declared that they would have a happy ending.
- Hurricane of Puns: USLES loves this trope. Hurricanes have blown into pretty much every show, with a record of two puns in one word.
- Well, who could resist such an op-perch-tuna-ty?
- Incredibly Lame Pun: They come in hurricanes.
- Lovable Coward: Clown characters, like Muddles in Snow White, Wishee Washee in Aladdin, are usually these.
- Pantomime Animal: 2012's Titus featured a pantomime pie.
- Punny Name: Loads and loads of them. Such as Shirley Knott and Sir Tanley in Snow White, who get married at the end, making the latter Sir Tanley-Knott.
- Sliding Scale of Fourth Wall Hardness: USLES characters might as well be fully-trained bricklayers for all that the fourth wall gets broken, leant on, built back up and knocked down again, often in the same scene. Male leads, villains, dames and comic characters regularly talk to the audience and lampshade pantomime tropes, while female leads and minor characters rarely if ever acknowledge the audience or the fictional nature of their existence.
- Throw It In: When a prop from Aladdin was missing from the final performance (the ring which housed the evil genie) a replacement had to be found at short notice. The villain ended up being the Genie of the Shoe, and Abanazer threatening characters with cries of "Shooooooooeeeee!" ended up being the show's funniest running gag. Children in the audience were even asking to smell the evil shoe.
- Your Mom: One actor had a "Your mum" heckle thrown at him during Beauty and the Beast. By his mum.