“a celebration of all that is silly and fun about pantomime, something all the family can enjoy and most certainly will!”
According to Jeff there are six great pantos. According to Dan there are twelve, but his list does include the Queen’s speech. And all six (or twelve) are about to happen in potted form on the stage of the Southwark Playhouse!
Our first pantomime is Jack and the Beanstalk, featuring an ill-timed beanstalk entrance, a moose that lays golden eggs and a mother in a pink feather boa who can’t afford that next bottle of Bollinger, darling. Next up, Dick Whittington, Show White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and finally Aladdin, unless Dan gets his way, in which case it’ll be A Christmas Carol. The northern fairy in Sleeping Beauty is a particular highlight as is Cinderella’s French God-Chicken.
As we travel through the different pantomimes, we also learn about the different pantomime traditions, as Jeff teaches Dan and the audience at the same time. All the classics are there from, “He’s behind you,” to “Oh no he isn’t.” There’s audience participation including a 3D experience of Cinderella’s coach ride home after the ball. There’s satire of course – Dick Whittington is a close imitation of Boris Johnson complete with messy blonde wig and prevaricating Eton voice. Brexit makes an appearance, and overall the show strikes a good balance between entertaining both children and adults alike – although they may not be laughing at the same thing!
Simon Scullion’s set is simple background for the different stories that is brought alive by the wealth of costumes (Nicky Bunch) and props that are paraded across the stage. The windows cut into the set are ideal mechanisms for cameo appearances and entrances from fairies, Prince Charming and the Queen of England.
Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner are a comedy duo who have been working together for years, including as CBBC presenters. As well as performing in the show, they are its writers alongside Richard Hurst. They are clearly having a fantastic time together onstage, and it’s infectious. Clarkson is perhaps the more compelling performer of the two, but still they balance each other well, transforming between a host of characters with ease and wit. There’s a lot of very clever stuff in it, but at its core it’s about having fun, and the constant laughter from the audience was an undeniable measure of that.
This is a celebration of all that is silly and fun about pantomime, something all the family can enjoy and most certainly will!
“it is impossible not to enjoy all the good humoured larking about in this production”
Imagine a gritty Cinderella set in a northern karaoke pub, and you have the premise for Not Too Tame’s version, written by Luke Barnes, and directed by Jimmy Fairhurst, of the perennial pantomime favourite. But that’s where the similarities end. In this decidedly grown up interpretation, Barnes has chosen to keep only the barest outline of the story, and ditch the magic. So Cinders is a charmingly downtrodden barmaid struggling to keep her dead father’s pub afloat. She is assisted in her endeavours by her best friend Mike, a nod to the fairy godmother role in the original story, but here a working man’s silver lamé wannabe drag queen who MC’s the music. Her evil stepmother, named Judy Garland here, and her two brash stepsisters, Simone and Garfunkel, leach off the labours of the pub workers, and dream of turning a tidy profit from a gastro pub instead. There is a Prince Charming, but he is a “fit” young man with his own ideas about how to exploit his “princess”. And Buttons is a neglected dog with thoughts of
suicide. Poor Cinderella, however is she going to extricate herself from this working class nightmare, and live happily ever after?
There are a lot of good performances in this production, although the singing, with the exception of Lizzie Hopley channeling the divine Judy, is for the most part uninspired. But what the cast lack in musical big moments, they more than make up for in spot on northern accents, comic shtick and spirited interaction with the audience. Patrick Knowles, as Buttons the dog, is a wonderful comic talent who keeps the action from sagging into gloomy exposition as he sprints around the house doing his best to avoid the inevitable bath. Cinders’ sisters, the inexplicably named Simone and Garfunkel, and played here by Louise Haggerty and Megan Pemberton, provide just the right amount of nastiness mixed in with hilarious turns as divas in training. These sisters may be terrible husband hunters, but Haggerty and Pemberton are particularly good at finding audience members willing to go along with their backchat and banter. And Jimmy Fairhurst, as the aforementioned Mike, holds it all together as he schemes to get Cinders to the party in a suitable dress. It’s really only Rosa Coduri, as Cinderella, dressed in jeans and an ugly Christmas sweater (why?) and Jack Condon, as Prince Charming, who struggle in poorly adapted roles. Coduri comes into her own at the end of the show, however, when she sends the upwardly mobile Charming packing, and decides that running the pub with her friends (and her dog) is the happy ending she’s been looking for.
For theatre goers who prefer their pantos traditional, with lots of magic and outrageously pretty costumes, Barnes’ adaptation of Cinderella will come up short. Nevertheless, it is impossible not to enjoy all the good humoured larking about in this production. And if you stick around after the show you will have the opportunity to get stuck into some serious karaoke.