“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!
“Her witty modern-day lyrics are reminiscent of the work of Lin-Manuel Miranda”
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”. Those immortal words the Bard penned in his rustic comedy, As You Like It, seem as true as ever in this recent musical adaptation of the play which makes its European debut. Produced by Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch in partnership with the National Theatre’s Public Acts, a national initiative to make inclusive, community theatre, it brings a one hundred-strong cast from all walks of life together to create this vibrant version which is unlike any other production of As You Like It you will have seen.
In a condensed telling of Shakespeare’s tale we find Duke Senior (Rohan Reckord) has been banished from the court by his brother Duke Frederick (Curtis Young), finding solace and a new home within the Forest of Arden, where many of his supporters begin to converge and take commune. In paranoid rage, Duke Frederick lashes out at anyone that threatens his authority, including his niece, Rosalind (Ebony Jonelle), who is exiled. Taking on a male disguise, she similarly flees to the Forest of Arden bringing in tow her cousin Celia (Marjorie Agwang), and the trusty clown Touchstone (Vedi Roy). However, before her banishment, Rosalind falls head over heels in love with Orlando (Linford Johnson) whom she must conceal her true emotions from when their paths cross again in the forest.
The original songs that interject this adaptation, help to flesh the characters out further, giving their actions and motives more depth. Composed by American Shaina Taub, she is certainly a name to listen out for in the future. Her witty modern-day lyrics are reminiscent of the work of Lin-Manuel Miranda and help to give a nearly 400-year old story a current relevance.
This may be a community project, but by and large the main characters are played by trained actors. Stand outs include the incredibly watchable Ebony Jonelle who offers a vivacious Rosalind, whilst Vedi Roy as Touchstone delivers the sassiest clown in town. Rohan Reckord has such a smooth voice it will undoubtedly give you goosebumps when he sings.
Nevertheless, it is the amalgamation between the trained actor and the ‘average Joe’ that really is something special, proving that a passion for theatre is what truly wins out and that anybody has a right and the capability to perform on stage. During the colossal group scenes, it is nigh impossible to not feel moved seeing a broad range of people of all ages, abilities, cultures, and backgrounds coming together. The sheer joy that beams from the stage is infectious. The carnival-like atmosphere and colourful costumes (Hayley Grindle and Daisy Blower) make it a party you never want to leave.