Puss In Boots
WARNING: In the following review I may appear to be raving about this show. Sorry. I am.
Is this the best Greenwich panto yet? Beauty and the Beast runs a close second, and Jack & the Beanstalk was pretty darn good (I think that was the one with the most ridiculous version of Bohemian Rhasposdy I’ve ever heard) but this one – oh, this one, is just wonderful.
Perhaps it’s because so few people know the Charles Perrault original which means that the result this year is bafflingly obscure – most adults in my party were totally lost (the kids got it completely) but, much like the other Perrault story with no real plot, Mother Goose, it gives so much leeway for – well, anything really, that the end product is anarchic, surreal and without any of that ‘that’s not what happened’ moments that come with some of the better-known interpretations.
It’s the most densely-joke-packed Greenwich Christmas offering so far – if you don’t like the gag currently onstage, don’t worry, there will be another one along in a second you will like even less. I have this image of Andrew Pollard spending the rest of the year living in a Christmas cracker factory, surviving on discarded paper mottoes scraped up off the floor…
In fact a lot of the jokes are so fast, you almost miss them. One ‘Behind You’ opportunity was so throwaway the entire audience missed it. Some are delightfully topical – I got the feeling that one had been put in that very night as a ’hmm…slightly iffy – let’s put it in and see if it flies…’ Guys – it did.
My Christmas wouldn’t be right without Andrew Pollard’s Dame (Fruity Fifi – this year…) and Paul Critoph’s jolly Baron-character – without either of them it just wouldn’t seem right. Pollard gets panto (which is more than I can say for the writers of at least one other I’ve seen this year)
The Carry On naughtiness, the silly fun for the kids, the topical gags for the adults, the spurious scenes that have no relation whatsoever for the plot: ‘Oh – I seem to be a bit early for the picnic. Think I’ll go for a swim…’ the fact that everyone can sing, dance and act (not always a given, I have discovered elsewhere…) the range of songs – chart hits and oldies – the delights of a well-delivered slop scene and plenty of audience participation. Yes. That’s panto.
I had been slightly worried when I discovered that Anthony Spargo wasn’t to be in this year’s show. He’s a relatively recent addition but I had already got used to his gangly evilness as villain-du-jour. But I have to say that Robert Andonis Anthony fills those ridiculous sparkly boots extremely well. I loved the way that he made me a bit nervous when he first came on – I thought ‘ Oh, no – this guy actually takes himself seriously’ – then as soon as a certain word was uttered (repeatedly, tee hee…) the face, noise and posture he took made it abundantly clear that if he’s a serious Shakespearian thespian during the rest of the year, he’s on holiday at the moment.
Ditto the slightly-worried bit when I heard Luke Striffler’s American accent – but he is marvellous as the YRL Sam – gently ribbed by Fruity Fifi and if he may have to get a grip on himself with the corpsing if people want to get the last train home it’s hardly the worst crime at the moment – at least his giggles seem genuine where I’ve noticed recently a habit (on the West End stage, shockingly) of ‘staged corpsing’ that just leaves a nasty taste in the spectral mouth.
From the delightful shadow puppets, through the ridiculous French cliches (oui, no possiblité left unplundered there…) to monstrous set-pieces this is a delight. Crepes, dancing shoes, space-cats, pugilism, Liberace, Les Dawson, Les Miserables, vegetables and a ‘bikini’ that has been seared on my retina for life (thanks, chaps…) it’s just fantastic.
If I had to tweak it just a leeetle, I’d have started with more lives left and enjoyed a few more Road-Runner style deaths, given the chorus a bit more to do (though can I have one of those walkdown hats, please..?) had a singalong song I could have actually sung and – yeah, sorry – that probably was a bikini too far for me…
But that’s teeny, teeny stuff. Overall this is one of the very best pantos I’ve seen – and believe me – I’ve seen a lot.
I’ve actually only seen one other panto so far this year (it’s early days…) which was utterly, utterly dismal. I won’t reveal which it was as I really like the theatre – they used to be one of the best shows in town – sadly on the evidence I saw they aren’t any more – totally magic-free and with a cast that could neither sing, dance nor act, but I try to get to see at least the big indie favourites each year.
I’m telling you this because I want you to know that when it comes to this particular subject I’m not being my usual parochial Greenwich-is-the-best-at-everything self. I do actually know panto pretty damn well and Greenwich is still the best in London as far as I’m concerned – and I promise you I would tell you if I’d seen anything better.
I think it’s pretty much sold out – but if you can get a ticket you won’t be disappointed.