"a fresh new fairground panto"
by Michael Gray for remotegoat on 02/12/18

A fresh new panto from Andrew Pollard, reworking the traditional tale, and transporting the whole story to a fairground – Furter’s Fun Fair. And two of the fairground folk are the outstanding creations here.

Richard Emerson’s Frank – the boss of the fair, of course – is a memorably funny fifties spiv, fan of Elvis, whose wig and side-whiskers he proudly sports. And the feisty Fortuna, a mannequin liberated from her mechanical attraction, is Hollie Cassar, who’s also her twin sister Spatula, and the show’s MD, taking turns on sax and keys with the rest of the impressively versatile actor/musicians.

Elizabeth Rowe makes a refreshingly modern Jill – she pops the question for the happy ending – and Claire Greenway has great fun with the Cow, Pat [“Are you dissin’ my turnip?” one of her best lines] – a very energetic performance, as is Taylor Rettke’s Hurricane, the Giant’s mean and heartless henchman.

John Barr is a lovely Dame, Dottie Trott, relishing the wordplay and the sheer senselessness of it all. He shows off his vocal talent, too, in I Am What I Am from La Cage aux Folles.
The lively numbers are a mixture of disco favourites – Earth Wind and Fire, Proclaimers, S Club 7 – and show business: Chaplin’s Smile, Big Fish, Catch Me If You Can and, inevitably, The Greatest Showman.

Much of Sundeep Kent’s most complex choreography is entrusted to the excellent Junior Chorus, three teams of ten over the five-week run.

Oh yes, they do have all the elements we expect, too. Jack – a likable James William-Pattison – does get to climb that beanstalk just before the interval, and defeats Big Dipper [our Giant, played by Sheldon Greenland in a splendid body made by David Cauchi] in Act Two. Sheldon rules the kingdom in the clouds, too, with his consort Celia Cruwys-Finnigan. There’s a messy scene in the dairy, with amusingly tricky dialogue and choreography, and a proper ghost routine with Igor the monster. Even rhyming couplets on the last page.

This fast-paced family panto – there’s a singalong and paper missiles to throw – is directed for the Queen’s by Martin Berry, with design by Richard Foxton and musical direction by Gemma Hawkins. The new plot elements mean there’s more exposition than usual – it’s almost an hour before the cow is sold – but the energy and the enthusiasm of the whole cast make for highly enjoyable festive fun.

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