If it’s a traditional panto you’re after then look no further than this welcoming corner of The New Forest where groan-worthy gags and funny business as old as the hills are on offer in James Barry’s commendably tightly scripted version of this well-loved tale, directed with vigour by Jenny Green.
Using just eight actors (plus two of the most straight-faced comedy dancers you are ever likely to see), the story moved along at a brisk pace, using popular songs and audience participation wherever possible, taking us from Old Peking to Egypt with the help of the funkiest, hippest Genie of the Lamp you are ever likely to encounter (a sparkling performance from John Gardner), and giving us ample opportunity to cheer the heroes and heroines, boo and hiss the villain, and laugh out loud at the awful jokes and dreadful routines of which The Laundry and The Mummy gags spring immediately to mind !
As Abanazer, the baddie of the piece, Mike Watson shone from the word go, winding up the audience at every opportunity with his villainous attempts firstly to become the richest person in the world, and secondly to persuade Donna West’s refined Princess Jasmine to marry him. Superbly dressed in purple and gold, he was the epitome of pantomime evil and the audience loved every moment, particularly some of the many ad-libs he threw their way. His ‘Bad to the Bone’ number had adults and children alike cheering in the aisles.
As the eponymous hero of the piece, Jo Clarke cut a dashing figure and sang well, particularly when joined by The Princess in their duet ‘I think I want to marry you’. It’s not easy playing the straight-man in a panto, but he (she !) kept in character well and moved the story along with an easy confidence.
The Dame is always at the centre of any panto action, and Richard Barnett’s Widow Twanky was no exception. Outrageously dressed throughout in a succession of wonderful costumes (congratulations to Wardrobe Mistress Di Buck) he/she ran the gamut of jokes, including such pearls as ‘I’ve never been so unsalted in my life’ and ‘why are they called American Knickers ? One Yank and they’re off !’
The supporting cast all played their parts commendably well; Jack Barnett’s lovelorn Wishee Washee, Vic Milne’s hopeless Peking Policeman Flung Dung, and Hannah Marks’ bubbly Ruby, the slave of the Ring all kept the action flowing as the story hurtled towards its happy ending.
if you are quick you can catch the show on the 8th or 9th of February.