If you’re looking for a reason why Panto is the one time of
year theatres can guarantee bums-on-seats, then Bromley’s
A myriad of theatrical tricks combine in spectacular effect.
Topping the bill, Jesse Wallace as the narcissistic Queen Lucretia revels in her role as the evil villain, lapping up every boo and hiss and occasionally slipping into an exaggerated version of her EastEnders alter ego to great comic effect. Lucretia constantly calls on her magic mirror – here an impressive bit of CGI flown in from above – to check she is the fairest in the land, but narked to find out Snow White (Naomi Cowe) is going to snatch the title of Miss Fairyland upon reaching her fast-approaching 21st birthday. Cue maleficent plot to bump off the young princess so the old queen can remain prettiest woman and marry the area’s most eligible bachelor, Prince Benedict of Bromley (Oliver Tompsett).
Supporting Wallace in her exuberant role are Jason Sutton as Snow White’s nanny, Nurse Nancy and magician Pete Firman as Muddles, who’s pining with unrequited love for the titular White. Sutton’s drag queen chops are used to full effect here, providing many of the innuendos that make panto a draw for adults as well as children; Edinburgh-regular Firman gets several opportunities to exhibit his skill at sleight of hand, even making a cupcake in a punter’s shoe at one point. After revealing to us early on in the show that Firman’s Muddles has a touch of Spoonerisms, the Pheasant Plucker skit was inevitable – which Wallace, Sutton and Firman played out like a knife-throwing act.
The Seven Dwarfs are billed quite justifiably in the programme as ‘The Magnificent Seven’. In a quite genius piece of staging, these guys shuffle around on their knees wearing cloaks with Muppet-like legs attached. I should feel guilty for laughing, but it’s hilarious. Led by Skipper (Joshua Harwood), there’s a Black Light Theatre style to the performance that makes even a simple Mexican wave beautiful to behold as they Hi Ho just on the right side of Disney’s lawyers.
The comedy comes thick and fast in this self-knowing production (“What do you mean what am I doing here? I’m on the poster”); Neighbouring boroughs become the butt of many of the jokes (“Nobody ever comes back from Orpington”) and Sutton’s double entendres liberally shower gentlemen in the front rows (“Do you fancy Nancy?”).
As a production it’s technically impressive. Gary Lloyd’s direction and choreography is ballsy and confident – especially in the ensemble musical numbers. The sets are extravagantly grand from the vast sparkly palace to the intricate Dwarfs’ Cottage in the Forbidden Forest. Graham J McLusky’s lighting design not only fills this magical space on stage, but extends to gobos projected around the auditorium. Clever use of gauzes, pyrotechnics and a myriad of other theatrical tricks combine in spectacular effect. Kudos to Qdos for mastering the art of the Christmas show. This old Grinch just found his Christmas spirit.