All the elements of panto are here plus a barrage of filthy jokes, even reference to being child friendly in order to satisfy the paedophiles in the audience. Jon Bradfield and Martin Hooper have written quite a traditional take on the story, yet have managed to include most of the expanding list of letters which LGBTQ… includes. Their ridiculous but arch singalong piece gently mocks this desire to include every shade of gender/sexuality within loving arms. Good to see prominent lesbian characters given an equal shout.
We started front of tabs with a lengthy intro by Dandelion (Scott Dale) and Mephista (Briony Rawle). They worked the crowd enthusiastically ensuring that the audience realise they have a key role in the production. This was also a teaser for what would the curtain reveal – What scenes and scene changes would emerge on the new large stage? An abundance was the answer: turning things, folding things, descending bits carefully designed and well managed.
Just enough singing was included, not too much to slow things down but enough to maintain the jollity. I don't think all of the cast are natural dancers, however! My favourite song was the love-missed duet for Tommy and Chester. Excellently played and deliciously mucky.
Liam Woodlands-Mooney’s Tommy will win audience hearts every night even if he continues to decline shouts of "Off – Off!" to encourage him to strip his T shirt. His confident charm kept the show running when others stuttered. Matthew Baldwin as Mother Goose was so laid back, he almost forgot he was playing Dame. Thanks to Tommy for keeping the show on track. Baldwin has dry, stylish delivery which beguiled his audience. Christopher Lane gives a suitably stupid father figure plenty of fun, while Ellen Butler plays a power crazed mayor effectively though she has too much phone work for too little payoff. As their son, Christian Andrews takes Chester gloriously over the top while still hiding his sexuality. Some mover too! Dandelion (Scott Dale) shows that a fairy can command the theatre and works his front of tabs solo fillers well. Briony Rawle relishes the role of baddy – I pity some of the audience she focussed on – and shows admirable disdain for us mere audience members. As Priscilla, Laura Blair is a revelation. With little to do in the first half, she takes over the final scene and powers to the climax. Her swearing in the jury and dialogue with herself are hilarious. She also shows some pleasing dance moves, managing to control her preposterous costume throughout.
They include just enough to be topical without thrashing the jaded political favourites and plenty of panto relish for the improbable and just a sprinkling of fairy magic. What more could we want?