Pantomime is a uniquely British phenomenon that often confuses tourists. You can see why, men dressed as women, principle ‘boys’ and audience heckles all contrary to usual theatrical etiquette.
Perhaps Potted Panto should be compulsory viewing for all tourists in this festive season as within its jam packed 95 minutes of manic mayhem it also manages to introduce audiences to the wonders of this historic art form.
CBBC’s Dan and Jeff (Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner) move their attention from condensing Harry Potter to give the Potted treatment to Pantomime. Jeff claims there are six classic panto’s, though Dan insists there are 12. Jeff’s aim is to run through these six plots in an hour and a half; Dan has other ideas and plans to include other well known pantomimes. The problem being Dan thinks Das Boot, The Queen’s Speech and A Christmas Carol are all traditional pantos.
It’s all wonderfully irreverent but also a warm and affectionate look at the genre. The jokes come quick as you’d expect and though marketed as a family show there is enough grown-up humour here to please all ages.
To spill too many details would spoil the fun but with appearances by Dame Barabara Cartland, Dick ‘Boris Johnson’ Whittington and a giant hen playing the fairy godmother it’s slapstick humour at its very best. There’s also a hint at the darker side of these fairytales and the grisly demise of the baddies. Panto may be rooted in theatrical tradition but modern rival 3D cinema doesn’t escape the parody either with an ingenious 3D Act One finale – just mind the giant spiders and the water pistols!
After breakneck renditions of Jack And The Beanstalk, Dick Whittington, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Snow White, proceedings come to a manic close with a surreal yet wonderfully observed merging of Jeff’s favourite panto Aladdin with Dan’s beloved Christmas Carol- the result a Dickensian world complete with ghosts meeting Abanaza Scrooge. The preceding events are so well observed that this fusion seems perfectly normal and Aladdin will never be the same again.
Potted Panto is a wonderful start to the festive season; if you don’t have a small child to take just take yourself and release your inner child – panto fan or not you’ll be hard pushed to find a funnier 90mins in the theatre this year.
Photo: Jefferson Turner and Daniel Clarkson in Potted Panto. Photo by Gabrielle Motola