Tag Archives: Geraint Lewis

Potted Panto


Apollo Theatre

POTTED PANTO at the Apollo Theatre


Potted Panto

“the perfect laugh-out-loud slice of silliness that we all need this year”


Seventy minutes. Seven classic pantomimes. Or is it six? We’re barely a minute in and there’s already an onstage dispute. Is ‘A Christmas Carol’ a pantomime? Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner (hereinafter referred to as Dan and Jeff) differ on this matter. They don’t even agree to disagree; they just disagree. That is probably the closest you’ll get to cohesion in this insanely hilarious, outlandish, madcap romp through some our best loved Festive Fairy Tales.

Oh, no it isn’t!

Oh, yes… actually, that comes later, as do all the traditional principles: the double entendres, the slapstick, the booing and the hissing, the ‘ghost gag’, the songs. But the overriding ingredient in “Potted Panto” is the humour. Seventy minutes may be quite a short running time in a West End theatre, but it is a long time to laugh out loud. If you do go to see this show (and you most certainly should) then make sure you get in trim. Apparently we use thirty muscles when we laugh. You will need them all to be in top notch condition for this show.

Dan and Jeff are masters of the craft. As a double act they have perfected their comic timing, chemistry and intuitive sense of humour. They make old jokes new and new jokes sound like seasoned classics. Where others subvert the genre, they just completely capsize it. The kids love it without being patronised and the adults love it without having to dumb down. With Richard Hurst (who directs too) Dan and Jeff have concocted a script that is intensely intelligent and supremely silly.

‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, ‘Dick Whittington’, ‘Snow White’, ‘Sleeping Beauty’, Cinderella’, ‘Aladdin’ and ‘A Christmas Carol’ have barely a ten-minute time slot each. But it’s a wonder any of the storylines can be squeezed in amid the deviations, digressions and surreal tangents that the couple go off on. Jacob Jackson and Charlotte Payne appear in cameo roles occasionally, but otherwise it’s all down to Dan and Jeff. And Nicky Bunch’s offbeat costumes. In time honoured Vaudeville fashion, they pay homage to the likes of Morecambe and Wise, among others. Jeff is the (ever so) slightly more serious one, hopelessly trying to reign in Dan and teach him the intricate rules of Pantomime (“No, Dan, ‘Das Boot’ is not a traditional pantomime!”).

Where else on the stage can you experience theatre in 3D? Think about that one. Where else can Prince Charming get the chance to kiss three iconic Fairy-tale princesses in the space of half an hour? (Well – he actually doesn’t. In a very tongue-in-cheek nod to wokeness, our gallant Prince informs us that breaking into a sleeping girl’s bedroom with the intent to kiss her without consent is “not happening on my patch!”). How does Aladdin’s antagonist, Abanazer, end up being visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future? This is just the tip of the iceberg. It is tempting to reveal the many, many other bizarre moments, topical jokes, cross references, cross dressing, character bending, plot twisting-until-its-snapping, in jokes, out jokes, shake-it-all-about jokes, visual puns, self-mockery, satire, innuendos… but I won’t.

Oh, yes I… (no – I won’t).

“Potted Panto” is the perfect laugh-out-loud slice of silliness that we all need this year. A must see for everyone. Especially for those who dislike (or pretend to) the genre. It is impossible not to love this show. It is seven stories for the price of one. And seventy minutes of unadulterated joy, which is priceless.



Reviewed on 18th December 2022

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Geraint Lewis



Previously reviewed at this venue:


Monday Night at the Apollo | ★★★½ | May 2021
Cruise | ★★★★★ | August 2022


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Brown Boys Swim

Brown Boys Swim


Edinburgh Festival Fringe

BROWN BOYS SWIM at Edinburgh Festival Fringe



Brown Boys Swim


“The real strength of Khan’s script is in the dialogue: natural, light and really playful”


Anish Roy and Varun Raj play two best friends, Mohsen and Kash, in a new play by Karim Khan about friendship, adolescence and religious identity. Mohsen and Kash are Muslim. Unlike their peers, they choose not to drink alcohol, don’t get invited to all the parties and, critically, can’t swim. After Kash manages to bag an invite to a pool party in one months’ time, they begin making regular visits to the local swimming pool to try and change this. But on their way to learning backstroke and front crawl, they begin to question other choices they make, and their friendship is put to the test with tragic consequences.

The real strength of Khan’s script is in the dialogue: natural, light and really playful. Rather than each scene revolving around big dramatic plot points, we get an insight into the dynamic between the characters, who pray together, spend time with each other’s families, and know each and every part of the other person. We also find out quite early on about an accident where a young man named Amir drowned some time earlier. The water is dangerous for two boys who never learnt to swim. Urdu phrases and other snippets of the boys’ culture are embedded in their conversations, and the scenes are performed with generosity and spontaneity by Roy and Raj. Kash is cheeky and flirty. Mohsen is more focused and averse to risk.

James Bailey’s lighting design takes us softly through a multi-coloured palette of blues and greens and purples. Combined with Roshan Gunga’s sound design and composition, with strings and splashes of water, the scene transitions give the feel of a gentle swim stroke, taking us carefully through the water to the next part of the story. James Button creates a blue-tiled wall, about waist-height, which is cleverly and subtly moved into different angles and positions, along with a couple of simple wooden benches to create the different scenes; it’s especially effective when the characters are behind it, the top of the wall acting as the pool edge, with Roy and Raj holding on for dear life, trying to find the courage to bop their heads below the water on the other side.

The script does build a little slowly, with a very abrupt plot-twist at the end which feels too fast to get the emotional impact I think this moment needs. We hear throughout the boys dealing with judgement, micro-aggressions and racism; shop security who assume they’re thieves; the revelation that the party invite was only because it was assumed they’d be bringing drugs; and the way the boys are stared at by people in the swimming pool. The ending attempts at showing the possible consequences of this structural, everyday prejudice, but it feels like a slightly shoehorned conclusion which jars with the tempo and energy of everything up to that point.

Questions around manhood, masculinity, and what makes a ‘good Muslim’, as well as the emotional dependency these two boys have on each other, is where the writing really thrives. Brown Boys Swim is an engaging drama, with compelling performances and a brilliant design and staging, with sharp direction from John Hoggarth.



Reviewed 14th August 2022

by Joseph Winer

Photography by  Geraint Lewis



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