DramaFamilyFestive 19/20LondonReview

Potted Panto – Southwark Playhouse, London

Writer: Daniel Clarkson, Jefferson Turner, Richard Hurst

Director: Richard Hurst

Reviewer: Karl O’Doherty

Back again to the Southwark Playhouse with no small amount of fizz, Dan and Jeff bring their Potted Panto to the world for the fifth time in this theatre. Like their other Potted shows, you very much know what to expect here. Rapid-fire belly laughs, shrieking kids in the audience, hats, poo, satire – anything and everything a modern panto needs.

The team have taken six (or seven) classic pantos and condensed them into an 80-minute show. It’s chaotic, childish, and extremely fun. A full two and a half hours worth of dames, villains, costumes and “he’s behind you” can be completely exhausting for an audience – this almost seems the perfect way to get the laughs and fun night out without having to undergo endurance training prior to taking your seat. Between them, with assistance from Jacob Jackson and Charlotte Payne the pair race through Jack and the Beanstalk, Dick Whittington and his Cat, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and take on Aladdin alongside A Christmas Carol as a finale. Barely stopping to take a breath, or let one gag settle before they move to the next, this is a finely honed show and delivers exactly what’s needed.

They tell the key points of the stories perfectly, surprising everyone with how much can be cut out of the famous tales. They even manage to do some of it in 3D, creating startling effects through Cinderella’s carriage ride home after the ball (a large spider on a stick and some water guns). A need to keep it slightly fresh, or at least fresh-looking, means an extended Boris Johnson gag during Dick Whittington – it will be interesting to see how (if) it changes after the upcoming election during their run.

There’s a joy in the execution here that tries hard to overcome one of the things that turn many people off panto. This is clearly a show that has been rehearsed well, timed perfectly and works with known material. At times, it can feel a little too sharp, the mask slips and we see two pros giving a great show, rather than maintaining the slightly shabby, chaotic veneer they’ve created. However, it never stops being thoroughly entertaining – not bad for tired panto ideas. They have turned everything here – even introducing the audience participation elements in an arch and knowing way. This preserves the fun for those who want it and allows Dan and Jeff to join in the eye rolls from those who maybe don’t have a lot of love for pantomime.

Potted Panto’s fifth season at the Southwark Playhouse runs over Christmas – is it one for panto lovers and naysayers alike? Oh yes it is (sorry).

Runs until 11 January 2020 | Image: Contributed

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