When Mark Twain said the only two certainties in life were death and taxes, he clearly hadn’t accounted for Andrew Pollard and the Greenwich team knocking out a cracking panto. For Mr Pollard is back, and it’s predictably excellent.
A feel-good return to festive theatre that ticks every box
As the nursery rhyme goes, the Queen of Hearts, she made some tarts, and that’s just about all Pollard (writer/director and dame) takes from the 12-line original. In his spin on this, the Knave of Tarts (Gibsa Bah) is the Queen’s son who essentially plays the stock ‘Buttons’ character who’s forever in the friendzone. The tart thief is the King of Clubs, deliciously camped up by serial Greenwich panto villain, Anthony Spargo. Love interest is provided by the Princess of Diamonds (Myla Carmen) and the Prince of Spades (Emma Jay Thomas) with a sixth character, the Fairy, played by everyone at least once during the show, including musical director “Uncle” Steve Marwick. Oh, and this year, the band are on stage. A nice touch, I thought.
When the King of Clubs steals the Queen’s secret recipe for her tarts, the royal palace collapses sending the Queen and her gang on a Mission Impossible-style quest to retrieve it.
As you can imagine, Pollard has stuffed this with double entendres galore; silly wordplay worthy of The Court Jester; a bucket load of well-known songs; puppets; Covid jokes; self-referential gags; popular culture references and just about the funniest kazoo moment I have ever seen staged.
We all know what happened – or rather didn’t happen – last year. The creative arts industry was one of the worst hit, and for theatres the annual panto normally brings in much needed funds to survive the year. You can appreciate then why this year’s offering from Greenwich is a little scaled down; indeed I imagine theatre management planning the show back at the beginning of the year didn’t even know if it would go ahead. Is the production as lavish as previous years? Well, no. Is it as joyous? Absolutely. This is no pound-shop panto.
The Queen of Hearts is a feel-good return to festive theatre that ticks every box.