Potted Panto – Wilton’s Music Hall, London

Reviewer: Sonny Waheed

Writers: Daniel Clarkson, Jefferson Turner and Richard Hurst

Director: Richard Hurst

It’s theatrelands most wonderful time. Yes, it’s panto season, a time when theatres up and down the country are filled with families enjoying this very British of traditions. But with ticket prices rising and a cost-of-living crisis, which of the many stories should you see?

Fortunately, the team behind the internationally successful Potted Potter shows have made that choice so much easier. With Potted Panto, you get seven pantos in one. Jack and the Beanstalk, Dick Whittington, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Aladdin and even A Christmas Carol (you can decide, following the onstage argument if you are pro or contra this being a pantomime) are all presented for your enjoyment.

Of course, to deliver seven pantos in 80 minutes and with a cast of two (the co-writers Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner), there’s been some serious editing and casting decisions, but they do it. And rather successfully too.

From the outset, you know this is going to be an energetic show. Clarkson and Turner bounce onto the stage cheering the audience on to make as much noise as is humanly possible. There’s a small debate about how many great pantos there are – Turner says six, but Clarkson believes 12, though he does include Mary Poppins, Das Boot (yes, the German War series) and A Christmas Carol. They settle on six pantos and, while also giving a little history into pantomime, progress to tell each story.

Their storytelling is a mix of narration and, well let’s just call it interpretive performance, where between the two of them they play everything from the back of a cow, a beanstalk, Dame Barbara Cartland and even an egg-laying moose (yes, moose). They run through at breakneck speed each of the stories, interspersed with everything you expect from a pantomime and then some.

There’s a wonderful updating of the stories to modern sensibilities through the show’s high point, Prince Charming. As the only character that appears across multiple stories, he notes how sneaking into a lady’s bedroom and kissing her without consent is probably not the best way to awaken her. Cue some hilarity on the best way to wake a sleeping princess/beauty etc.

If you’re looking for a panto that has a cast of hundreds, exquisite costumes and sets, and a cast of B and C-list celebrities, this is not for you. This is as stripped-down a production as you can imagine. It’s primarily two men and a box of props. But it works, and wonderfully so.

In an age where theatre shows are as technically complex as a theme park ride, there’s something lovely about seeing theatre that’s really taken the art back to basics. This is pure theatre. The focus is on creativity and performance. With an array of hats, capes, wigs, dodgy accents, and a bucket load of commitment, Clarkson and Turner deliver a hugely engaging and entertaining world that, as all great pantomime does, keeps the kids and adults equally happy.

Where the delightful off-the-cuff remarks about our current political state give the adults their chuckles, the scenes about pie in the face or horse poo keep the kids giddy. But it’s the expected wordplay around Dick Whittington, the overuse of the French ‘Oui, Oui’ and the water gun attack on the audience that delights everyone.

This is a show full of family fun that should please all. Whilst it tends to play to a younger crowd in its delivery, there’s more than enough throughout to keep a full range of audiences very, very happy.

Runs until December 30 2023

The Reviews Hub Score

Festive family shenanigans.

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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