‘Prepare for mirth’ Act II, Scene III, Pericles
The last time I saw a pantomime, it starred my 50-something-year-old father as the dame. After such a harrowing experience, I vowed never to see a pantomime again. Last night, however, I broke my vow, with Pantosoc’s latest creation: Shrek the Panto, and boy am I glad I went.
Written by Sophy Taylor and Hope White, we find their Shrek unhappy and single, drinking away his sorrows in a bar: Fiona has dumped him. It looks like Lord Farquaard (under the magical disguise of a drawn-on moustache) will take her hand in marriage, after a successful stint on ‘Take Me Out’ (lead by a spot-on ‘Paddy’ played by Nick Richardson).
For me, the stand out roles were that of Lord Farquaad (Sophy Taylor) and Shrek (Katharine Karrison) as both were played with confidence and excellent comic timing. However, act two’s focus felt slightly odd narrative-wise; I heartily missed Lord Farquaad and when he came on near the end of the act I’d almost forgotten the role entirely, despite it being hilarious and engaging.
Shrek was played as the character who we know and love - opening the play with ‘what are you doing in my swamp?’ - with an abundance of foul-mouthed threats (a favourite of mine being, ‘I’ll shove a wine bottle up your cock’). Harrison did a superb job of recreating one of our favourite animated characters. For me, the character of Donkey wasn’t used to its full potential and felt particularly weak in comparison to Shrek; one of the funniest roles in the franchise was wasted here, with both Donkey’s lines and the delivery failing to land quite as they should have.
The costumes deserve a special mention; Ursula looked suitably terrifying and weird, and the Fairy Godmother (now a drag queen) looked stunning in a tight-fitting sequined dress. Michael Canning took some warming up for his role as the Fairy Godmother, but, by the beginning of Act 2, he was absolutely in his element. The majority of his (euphemistic) lines got big laughs, particularly ‘I will say what I said to the last five men I slept with: do I look like I’m finished?’. Seated front row however, I might suggest that he invest in some shorts over his boxers- that slit in the dress was less of a slit and more of a gaping hole!
The ends of scenes often felt awkward, with lines not quite punchy enough to close it, leaving the audience unsure whether to clap or not. Furthermore, the constant bringing on and off of the bed for the very short grandson/grandpa scenes (played beautifully by Beth Raithby and Pippa Sloan) felt laboured- surely a pillow and duvet would have worked just as well here. A few jokes, too, became a little repetitive, such as Hodor who simply said ‘Hodor’ everytime he was asked a question, and the tendency for characters to start unknowingly quoting song lyrics.
All in all though, this panto was sheer, unadulterated fun. There is true joy in almost every performance (including a little rough-around the edges scenes from the supporting cast) and this joy is palpable for the audience. If every pantomime had a kazoo solo (I know!), I would be an avid fan.
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