After a break last year the panto crowd were itching to get back to the good old pre-Covid days when we could laugh and boo and hiss to our heart’s content, writes Michael Holland.
This year the regular Greenwich Theatre panto writer, Andrew Pollard, has gone a little bit off-piste and not gone for one of the main traditional panto stories, but his Queen of Hearts has all the ingredients for a proper Christmas show.
With Covid still affecting theatre rehearsals, this was a stripped-down production in regards to cast, but this intrepid troupe certainly made up for that with a blistering array of songs, dance, a dame and a villain. And not forgetting ‘Uncle’ Steve Markwick and his merry band of top-notch musicians playing everything from classical to pop to rock.
The story was about a money-making secret recipe that the King of Clubs (Anthony Spargo) wanted so he could fund a life of debauchery, but which he had to steal from the Queen of Hearts without getting caught by any Jacks, princes or princesses.
It was all very silly with lots of bad dad jokes that raised as many ironic groans as laughs, which is exactly what we’ve been deprived of for two years. In fact, my favourite joke was told by The Knave of Hearts (Gibsa Bah): ‘This is not my real ladder, this is my stepladder.’
Genius, although my panto partner, who was chuckling away all night, failed to see its brilliance.
But it is the Dame and the Baddie that we come to see and with Mr Pollard giving us more costume changes than a Madonna concert, and Mr Spargo once again being the Bestest Baddie in town, the Queen of Hearts is a winner. And as much as it is very much the Spargo and Pollard show, these two veterans are very giving to the young performers who every year are given huge opportunities to shine while they get to work alongside the best at Greenwich. Most of the singing and dancing was handed over to Emma Jay Thomas (Prince of Spades) and Myla Carmen (Princess of Diamonds), and they, along with the Knave of Hearts, did a sterling job of kicking off theatre-goers’ panto season with a smile and a bang.
Panto is back so go and see it before we get locked down again.
Greenwich Theatre, Crooms Hill, SE10 8ES until January 2nd. Times: Varied (See website for full details). Admission: £32, £25.
Booking: 0208 858 7755 – www.greenwichtheatre.org.uk