Tag Archives: Emily Cairns

The Nativity Panto

The Nativity Panto

★★★★

King’s Head Theatre

The Nativity Panto

The Nativity Panto

King’s Head Theatre

Reviewed – 3rd December 2019

★★★★

 

“It is a truly wonderful mash-up. Joyful and triumphant.”

 

‘Tis the season to be silly. That’s all you need to know really. I could end the review here, but my editor wouldn’t be too happy. He’d tear it up and tell me to start again. Which is exactly what Charles Court Opera have done with the original Christmas story. Everything you thought you knew about the Nativity is lying crumpled in the wastepaper bin. They call “The Nativity Panto” an ‘adaptation’ of the tale that sparked the festive season. I call it a demolotion. Or deconstruction maybe. And then they lost the blueprint. Undaunted, however, writer John Savournin and composer/lyricist David Eaton have picked up the pieces from their blurred memories and sharp imaginations to recreate a show that is inventive, hilarious, irreverent, magical, surreal and, to use Pythonesque parlance, just downright silly.

Joseph and Mary Christmas live in the North Pole. Joseph is a workaholic toymaker. All Mary wants for Christmas is a baby. A holy holly bush grants her wish and miraculously she is bulging and ready to drop; a fact that Joseph is ingenuously accepting of. Meanwhile the joy-sucking Jack Frost and his sidekick Snowflake threaten to spoil Christmas for everyone. From there the bizarre adventure begins, and the cast and audience have an absolute ball on the journey together. We rapidly stop trying to dodge the Christmas cracker jokes as innuendos crescendo and double-entendres thunder through the dialogue, and we let ourselves be swept along for the joyous ride. Rachel Szmukler’s gingerbread and candy set evolves with the action like clockwork, while Mia Wallden’s inventive and colourful costumes are the frosting on the cake.

Emily Cairns, Meriel Cunningham, Jennie Jacobs, Matthew Kellett and Catrine Kirkman all possess an energy and versatility that lifts the spirits and indelibly etches laughter lines onto even the most poker face that dares enter the auditorium. The beauty of pantomime is that it appeals to all ages with its mix of slapstick and adult humour. It is an artform that requires a high standard of stagecraft and talent, and this company have it by the sleighload. The five cast members deliver a blizzard of characters (you long to be a fly on the wall backstage to witness how they cope with the costume changes). None can be singled out as each performance is outstanding. Not that you can anyway – their flexibility with accents, expressions, impersonation and interpretation defies recognition as they dish up their feast of familiar faces. Characters we know and love but seen here in a completely different light. You never knew that Rudolph’s fear of flying stemmed from deep rooted self-image issues, did you? Or that the Three Kings could tango like there’s no tomorrow.

David Eaton’s music and lyrics feature original compositions and parodies of popular songs. The Spice Girls, A-ha, Barry Manilow and even David Bowie and Freddie Mercury, among others, provide the backing to Eaton’s humorously clever lyrics; interspersed with some quite beautiful song writing that never feels out of context. Eaton himself is on keyboards providing the musical accompaniment, with drummer Dave Jennings, who also adds some finely timed percussive sound effects. The eclecticism of the soundtrack is matched by the many references in the script, both biblical and contemporary, from King Herod to the Lion King. And pretty much everything in between. It is a truly wonderful mash-up. Joyful and triumphant.

Everything you thought you knew about the nativity is torn apart in this wondrous gift of a show, as the true origins are irreverently revealed. But I shall say no more. ‘Tis the season to be silly. That’s all you need to know really.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Bill Knight

 


The Nativity Panto

King’s Head Theatre until 11th January

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Vulvarine | ★★★★★ | June 2019
Margot, Dame, The Most Famous Ballerina In The World | ★★★ | July 2019
Mating In Captivity | ★★★★ | July 2019
Oddball | ★★★½ | July 2019
How We Begin | ★★★★ | August 2019
World’s End | ★★★★ | August 2019
Stripped | ★★★★ | September 2019
The Elixir Of Love | ★★★★★ | September 2019
Tickle | ★★★★ | October 2019
Don’t Frighten The Straights | ★★★ | November 2019

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Buttons: A Cinderella Story
★★★★

King’s Head Theatre

Buttons: A Cinderella Story

King’s Head Theatre

Reviewed – 27th November 2018

★★★★

“a highly entertaining, titillating beast of a show”

 

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…. Especially now that Panto season has come upon us. That’s right boys and girls, the time for inneundos, “he’s behind you!”, and more glitter than you can shake a bauble at, has come around again. For the 12th year in a row, Charles Court Opera (CCO) are mixing up the Panto festivities with their imaginative retelling of a classic fairytale. Buttons: A Cinderella Story is full of the camp charm you would expect, but flogging saucier double entendres for its ‘adults only’ performances that admittedly don’t always hit the mark. Although some parts fall rather flat, this is overruled by the good … which is really very good. With inventive lyrics to songs and twists to the well-known story, CCO create a refreshing new take on the often stale Panto form.

Cinderella (Eleanor Sanderson-Nash) does not take centre stage in this telling. Gone is the glass slipper. Gone are the evil stepmother and stepsisters. Instead, we follow Buttons (Matthew Kellett), Cinderella’s teddy bear, who wishes he could be a real boy so that he could tell Cinderella how much he loves her. Poof! In a cloud of smoke Buttons’ Fairy Godfather grants him his wish. But, making Cinderella fall in love with him proves a challenging task. She has her heart set on marrying a prince. By luck the smug yet suave Prince Charming (Jennie Jacobs) has ridden into town with his manservant Dandini (Emily Cairns) but there’s an unnerving, darker side to his Royal Highness yet to be discovered. All comes to a head at the Prince’s ball, with romantic dilemmas, shenanigans galore, and a whodunnit mystery.

David Eaton does an excellent job in reworking the lyrics of existing pop songs to much comic effect. The reimagined use of Bohemian Rhapsody is inevitable with the recent release of the film with the same name. The new version of Thriller is a particular highlight, cleverly reinterpreting not just the lyrics but also the iconic dance moves to fit the storyline. Matthew Kellett as Buttons wins the prize for tugging on the audiences heart strings with his rendition of Radiohead’s Creep. Overall, the singing in the show is of an exceptional standard, with harmonies to die for.

Being an adults only performance, with no kids to do all the shouting back and participation, there was some reluctance from the audience to take part (some people almost forcibly dragged onto the stage). However, in spite of this, the audience did warm into spurting the usual comeback lines.

As much as an outrageous retelling was promised, the final product is actually rather tame. There are some surprising twists from the usual Cinderella story, however, it could have been made darker and stranger in other places. Nevertheless, this is still a highly entertaining, titillating beast of a show. It certainly beats some of the typical Panto fare that can be rather nauseating. Raucous festive fun to get you in the Christmas spirit.

 

Reviewed by  Phoebe Cole

Photography by Bill Knight

 

kings head theatre

Buttons: A Cinderella Story

King’s Head Theatre until 5th January

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Riot Act | ★★★★★ | July 2018
The Cluedo Club Killings | ★★★ | July 2018
And Tell Sad Stories of the Deaths of Queens | ★★★★ | August 2018
Hamilton (Lewis) | ★★★ | September 2018
Canoe | ★★★½ | October 2018
La Traviata | ★★★★ | October 2018
No Leaves on my Precious Self | ★★ | October 2018
Beauty and the Beast: A Musical Parody | ★★★★★ | November 2018
Brexit | ★★★★★ | November 2018
Momma Golda | ★★★ | November 2018

 

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