The Other Palace
Reviewed – 11th December 2018
“brims with intelligent, self aware, sharply crafted stagery”
Of all the British theatre traditions, the Christmas Pantomime is the one that survives most intact into the digital age. Companies as diverse as Stratford East, Theatre 503, and of course Hackney Empire produce amazing work keeping the institution alive. For other audiences, a tasteful interpretation of Ebenezer Scrooge’s misfortunes or an elegant, orchestral candlelit carol service might mark the holiday season.
With Lesley Garrett’s ethereal voice and John Marquez and Hugh Dennis’ brilliant comic timing, The Messiah is the best of both of these worlds. It’ll hold up well in front of a family audience, with plenty of innocent, wholesome wordplay alongside bawdier jokes, old-fashioned physical slapstick, and audience participation sequences that will have grown adults clutching each other with sheer glee. But there are also treasures to uncover for those who come looking for theatre to sink their teeth into.
The set design is so beautiful it manages to make me nostalgic for a period I wasn’t around to see. So many details in the choreography and lighting are lovingly put together to enhance the mood and even the intermission music recalls a golden age of epic biblical films.
With the cast, it’s impossible to really dislike Hugh Dennis’ Maurice. The actor is just too endearing, so his character isn’t pompous or nasty enough to need taking down a peg or two. John Marquez’s lovely Ronald spins right through from bumbling crotch gags to very spare, excruciating glimpses into his lonely life.
Patrick Barlow’s anarchic, sincere production has a certain homemade charm but brims with intelligent, self aware, sharply crafted stagery. It’s not difficult to see why his beloved 39 Steps ran for nine years on the West End.
I left The Other Palace thinking that the scope of someone’s theatrical ambition is achieved heart-first. Their spiritual awakening is a personal responsibility. And you know what? Sometimes a big Pinocchio nose is just very, very funny.
Reviewed by Cesía León-Alvarez
Photography by Robert Day
The Other Palace until 5th January
Previously reviewed at this venue: