Tag Archives: Mia Wallden

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


Review of King Tut – A Pyramid Panto – 4 Stars


King Tut – A Pyramid Panto

King’s Head Theatre

Reviewed – 28th November 2017


“wickedly funny, and performed with great gusto”


If you are looking for some rather bonkers fun this is for you. The last time I went to a panto it was with small children. It was enjoyable, but earsplitting and really for the kids, so I didn’t think pantomime was my thing. However, King Tut – A Pyramid Panto has really changed my mind. It’s definitely not for the kids (though there are some family friendly shows in the run) and it is absolutely hilarious! It is quite a feat, on press night, to have the whole audience singing silly songs, yelling ‘don’t do it!’ and generally having a jolly good time. With a good range of fart jokes, sly contemporary references and lots of familiar tunes (with very different lyrics!), King Tut delights. It is wickedly funny, and performed with great gusto and musical virtuosity by Charles Court Opera.

The story is, very, very, loosely, based on Howard Carter’s expedition to discover the tomb of Tutankhamen. Except this Carter goes back in time and meets the young Pharaoh in person. The ensemble singing is pitch perfect and the singers are also excellent and energetic actors.

All pantomimes need a great villain and John Savournin’s Lord Conniving is a treat. He blusters and swaggers, inviting boos and hisses from the willing audience and singing up a storm with his rich, powerful bass-baritone. He has impeccable comic timing and a natural sense of how to get the audience involved. He is also the writer and director of this wonderful romp. Matt J Ward is endearing as a lovestruck and rather hapless Howard Carter and his excruciating awkwardness and ‘particular difficulty’ in getting close to the lovely Evelyn become an ongoing daft and giggle inducing theme. Evelyn is played with unaffected warmth by Francesca Fenech, and she and Ward had us rooting for the successful start of their relationship. If you want to know if they get together you will have to see the show!

King Tut is played with street style and bravado by the exquisite welsh soprano Alys Roberts. She is small enough to play the boy king, with a voice big enough to fill the space with effortless ease. A voice that can soar to the rafters in her higher range and also take on pop and rap silliness without sounding forced. The final cast member is Philip Lee who plays the porter, the camel and the gameshow host. He is a comic chameleon, inhabiting each character with relish. His lovable camel gallops from gleeful to poignant, and he seems to channel the spirit of Bruce Forsyth when he appears to host the gameshow. He also has a gorgeous tenor voice and fantastic physicality. Dave Jennings is on percussion, and his head makes a brief appearance at one point.

With those panto must-haves of a shimmering set (Sean Turner) and slightly OTT costumes (Mia Wallden), King Tut is a great evening out. Why not get some friends together and grab some tickets? You won’t regret it!


Reviewed by Katre

Photography by William Knight





is at the King’s Head Theatre until 6th January



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