Written By: Chris Daley
Date: November 28 2018
Location: Everyman Theatre, Liverpool
The Everyman Rock ’N’ Roll Pantomime was a regular for me as child. Every 27th of December, my parents would take myself and my brother as a way of prolonging the Christmas fun for as long as possible past Boxing Day. I have very fond memories of these pantos, and having not been since I was a child, I must admit I was a bit cautious of attending my first as an adult, wary that my older eyes may cast cynical aspersions on the performances that my younger self enjoyed so much. Fortunately, I was worrying over nothing.
From the moment the panto started and we saw Lucy Thatcher’s Viletta introduced as our over-dramatic self-proclaiming “misunderstood” villain, I settled in and thought “we’re okay here”. This is exactly as panto should be. And to be honest, I’m going to go into more detail, but that sums up the whole show to be honest. Exactly as panto should be.
Apart from a brief foray into Wikipedia to look up what the Disney film Frozen was based on, I have to say I am not particularly familiar with “The Snow Queen” as a story. However, this was rendered null and void as soon as I realised that two penguins would be transforming into an ice cream salesman and Little Bo Peep in order to further the narrative, much to my amusement. Throw in Mr. Whippy as an additional villain in a world that includes fairies, rockets and holograms, and you realise that the story was suitably absurd to entertain everyone.
In terms of the humour, everyone was on good form. Thatcher’s Viletta had a particularly funny ad-lib back and forth with an audience member accusing her of being “over-dramatic”. But for true comedy gold, look no further than Francis Tucker’s Beau Peep Po and Adam Keast’s Toni Cornetto. Not only did the pair of them have the audience in stitches, but they played the crowd fantastically and had just the right combination of improvisation and perfectly-rehearsed routines. And in true panto style, there was a lot of audience participation. From cowering away from water pistols to literally being on our feet dancing and singing, it was just brilliant.
Comedy alone, though, was only half the story for this performance. The musical numbers were well-choreographed and suitably engaging. Nicola Matrinus-Smith’s Snowdrop seemed to be in the majority of these, and along with Danny Burns and Barbara Hockaday providing the numerous supporting characters, these musical numbers emphasised the sheer fun of the whole show. The highlight for me was the “Flood” montage towards the end of the second act. Greg Last as musical director has done a great job here.
My only quibble with the whole show is that some of these obviously very well-rehearsed set routines seemed to fall slightly flat with the audience, perhaps having one too many. Occasionally they felt a little forced, almost as if “we haven’t had a musical number in a while, so let’s throw one in for the sake of it”.
However, I am more than nit-picking here. This is no way detracted from my enjoyment of the show. How much of it is the very talented cast’s adlibbing and how much was originally the script, we will never know. Having said that, Sarah A. Nixon and Mark Chatterton do a great job with this perfectly-pitched script. The tone is just right, knowing when to machine gun the gags our way, but also when to hold back and just let us enjoy the story. Lloyd Gorman’s Hench gives us The Snow Queen’s version of Buttons from Cinderella, but in such a funny way to be different enough to not suffer by comparison.
Chatterton does a great job of directing a great group of actors, but also has a very talented team behind him with the set design, sound and lighting all playing a pivotal role in making this an enjoyable and immersive pantomime.
This to me encompasses true entertainment. There were points when I was crying with laughter, and points were I was genuinely moved. From big-belly laughs to heartfelt ballads, this is everything a pantomime should be to all ages. In all honestly, most of my review is largely superfluous. Everything you need to know about this pantomime was in the first few lines. This is everything a pantomime should be, and I will be recommending it to everyone I know.
Overall Rating: 9.5/10 – Classic