That could be it, that could be the review right there. If you know Panto, overdressed men parading as women, attractive leads, lots of singing, double entendre, slapstick, laughing, joining in and shouting, just about covers the 300 year old formula developed in Britain but coming from traditional Italian Commedia dell’ Arte (at last a use for my A’Level Theatre studies since I can’t act or mime!). That’s right a great British tradition, started in Europe, like Fish and Chips ;-).
The same lead as last year Justin Fletcher is so popular with the younger theatre goers and yet manages to appeal to all age groups across the generations. Panto does have something for everyone because even the curmudgeonly can see a kindred spirit in Abanazar played with absolute perfection by Steven Serlin and, you know, any goth mums out there you’ll be fine for the evening 😉
We went in, my fifteen year old daughter, five year old nephew and I with maybe different intentions. He bounced ahead ‘I’ve been here before!’ ‘That’s lovely darling hold my hand don’t windmill into that lady. “It’s ok she’s got a helmet on’ he says. You know that bit where you try to impart information via gritted teeth ‘No it is just well organised hair’.
‘Where’s the programme God, Ben Adams is so gorgeous!’ daughter says poring over it. ‘Can you not rub it like that I have to write a review and you’re going to blur the print?’ I realise I am going to be sitting with a fifteen year old who turns into Sid James everytime we go ‘Corr that dancer’s tattoo!’ and a little bouncy tigger who is wide eyed at the whole thing, belly laughing at balloons, but surprisingly sophisticated with the Theatre staff. ‘Yes I did come before thank you, do you want to see my t-shirt, it’s got a picture on it’ undoing his fair isle cable knit with a flourish. Some how I think he is the Nigel Havers of Year 1 and note to tell my sister to watch out for floozies when he’s older. I explained to him about shouting and hissing the ‘baddie’ which he took to confidently adding a thumbs down gesture of his own. Like Caligula. Worrying.
I always get excited at Panto but spend half the time watching the faces of the children I am with. I don’t want to give away all the little bits and bobs that whilst traditional don’t always come in the places you expect but it is great to see people up and dancing, the Twelve Days of Christmas in the usual way and how impressed that my little companion obviously with influence from his Irish Grandmother made sure he put his little raincoat and hood on before standing up and shouting to Wishee Washee to aim the water pistol our way. Even the real journalists were up dancing away to all the songs.
Jason Sutton as Widow Twankey was a joy not least because I started an uncomfortable recognition of how I dress for gigs as she came on in the traditional Dame outfits ever more outrageous, am I a panto Dame or have I just been to too many to notice it is not a normal way of dressing? I didn’t think of Panto as a vehicle for self awareness but am discombobulated that it may be something I should examine. As a New Year Resolution, maybe. Or not. As Widow Twankey waxes lyrical about the Guards I look at my daughter and raise an eyebrow ‘That’s you that is.’ I say.
This year though, it really was a laugh a minute, the comic timing of all of the cast was impeccable and the performance really flew by. The favourite bit for my little lad was the Policeman’s Bum hanging out. Steven Arnold did a really great job as PC Pong and the Genies played by Shaheen Jafargholi known for his voice like a young Stevie Wonder and Djalenga Scott were both excellent.
This year’s Panto is one that covers all age groups well and if you aren’t enjoying it just check you have a pulse. There is a formula to Panto, it is true but each year writers have to overhaul and look at the current topics to weave them in. In its origins it also took the job of satire for the day. It’s only fair that as well as the actors delivering the lines the writer Eric Potts gets a mention because it was seamless. Well done too to the local dancers who supported the cast so confidently and who just looked like they were having the time of their lives.
We left, after my little lad had a little interview ‘It is way past my bedtime you know’ he said solemnly to the lady, ‘but I liked the policeman’s bottom showing best’ (bums are the funniest thing at the moment if you are five) and me wondering if being hoarse from shouting at Panto was a good enough excuse not to be able to sing at an important gig to the rest of the band and should I tell them (not as it turns out when I did – swearing has no place in a family review)
We followed our little Jedi out into the car park the way being lit by his light sabre and coat done up like a cape, one happy boy, one happy teenager and one happy Auntie. It’s a really great night again and plenty of time left to see it with the family.
So I started with a basic thing about Panto having everything and this is no exception and ends with the reminder that Panto is the time to take the broomstick out of the proverbial, lighten up and just enjoy it for what it is, and this one makes that really really easy. Life really is too short not to laugh at stuff like this.
Aladdin is on at New Victoria Theatre until 10 January 2015 tickets available from www.atgtickets.com