Writer &Director: Peter Rowe
Musical Director: Ben Goddard
Choreographer: Darragh O’Leary
Reviewer: Paul Pearce Couch
Well done, Peter Rowe – the Big Seven (Cinderella, Puss in Boots, Jack &The Beanstalk, Sleeping Beauty, Babes In The Wood, Aladdin, and Snow White) have been jostled aside for something a little more – quite literally – adventurous for this year’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Panto, Sinbad.
Okay, so the ridiculous plot has about as little to do with 1001 Arabian Nights as Donald Trump has to do with humility and humanitarianism but it’s all rather jolly fun and proof that the actor/musician format, which had started to become a little frayed, is back on track and blistering.
For Sinbad, Rowe has largely eschewed the usual song catalogue from the ‘60s and ‘70s, and the “Rock” part of Rock ‘n’ Roll is on the menu with Thin Lizzy’s The Boys Are Back In Town, George Michael’s Father Figure, REM’s It’s The End of the World, and a hilarious version of Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer, complete with dry ice and giant electric fan for that full ’80s power-ballad experience. If Rowe’s missed a trick at all, it’s in not coming up with a way of putting five guitar-toting female clones to back Robert Plant’s Addicted to Love, but no matter – that’s a forgivable omission in the grand scheme of things.
Graham Kent makes a concupiscent and grotesque Dame – filthier than we’re perhaps used to but the beauty of pantomime is that the breath-taking double entendres will hurtle over the heads of young audience members whose attention will be fixed by the menagerie of puppet critters that populate the rafters and floorboards of the imaginary Caliphate of Constantinople. The gags were ancient when the Ottoman Empire was in its infancy: “When I nod my head, you hit it!” but what were you expecting – Oscar Wilde?
Of course, every panto needs a contemptuous villain and New Wolsey regular Dan de Cruz oozes evil as the slimy sorcerer, Sinestro, resplendent in gorgeous, glittering fuchsia robes. In fact, most of Margaret Lock’s costume selection is bright and functional, with a nod to somewhere in the Middle East via Primark, but de Cruz’s ensemble is something special.
Sinbad The Sailor himself is played by former Son of Dork frontman Steve Rushton, who’s not your average hero, making it obvious from the start that he’s in it for the short-haul of scaling her harem pants as far as wooing Princess Pearl (a sweet, attractive and very able Daniella Piper) is concerned. As is the case with the rest of Rowe’s cast, Rushton – unsurprisingly given his provenance – is an adept musician while easy on the eye as the titular rogue.
It never ceases to amaze just how many actors are also highly competent musicians; in Sinbad, expect to see diminutive females blasting away at saxophones almost as big as they are, regular faces such as the aforementioned de Cruz taking up the keyboards, and James Haggie, fresh from a mammoth tour of The Little Shop of Horrors, getting down and very dirty on electric guitar, while just about everyone gets behind the drum kit at some point.
Rowe’s direction is slick and sassy and the cast is obviously enjoying themselves, which is half the battle. Whether the energy levels can be sustained until the end of January remains to be seen but they are currently very much on top form. Will Sinbad manage to keep his Saucy Sausage upright (you have to be there) for another two months? Will Dame Donna manage to avoid mentioning the meat-and-two-veg offering on her food cart (yes, we spotted it)? Will the confusingly named wimp Tinbad the Tailor (Rob Falconer) finally get his mitts on Dame Donna’s ample dumplings? Unless there’s a crafty re-write to this naughty nautical nonsense, the answer’s probably yes.
Runs until 28 January 2017 | Image: Robert Day