Peter McGarry is an experienced,
independent professional theatre critic who has agreed to
review Talisman Theatre productions.
Peter is free to express his opinions for good or ill. The
Talisman Theatre has no control whatsoever over the content
of these reviews and will not comment publicly on what he writes.
So what makes a good panto?
Traditionalists will argue for colourful dame, hissable villain,
pretty princess, knockabout comedy - and a decent story.
But Humpty Dumpty? He fell off a wall - end of story? Not
necessarily. Stephen Duckham proves the point with this show
which he has written and directed, both to pleasing effect.
It has all the above ingredients but thankfully does not succumb
to the current public absorption with cookery programmes.
So any fears that Mother Hubbard might be running some tiresome
Big Bake-off sessions can be allayed.
In fact, the show is a winner on nearly all counts. While
not swamped with high-tech gimmickry, it can boast a mesmerising
golden-bird sequence in which two of the principals are flown
out of danger. This is quite some design achievement by Wendy
Morris, who also provides a nicely spooky jungle setting as
well as some rich interiors.
Merrily bringing the plot to life are some spirited performances.
Amanda Dodd's vengeful would-be usurper is as engaging a 'nasty'
as any panto could wish for, cleverly combining woman's wiles
with mouthy malevolence.
Alistair Jolliffe towers - in every sense - as Mother Hubbard,
nicely eschewing old-style Danny La Rue innuendo in favour
of likeable humour and the essential masculinity that makes
all good dame portrayals work. Nikki Cross is a charming,
sweet-voiced and sparky Princess and David Crossfield strikes
an imposing cameo as a seedy jungle inhabitant.
Some of the broader comedy moments fail to rise, but the show
- unlike so many pantomimes - focuses on fast pace, neat script,
great costumes and a song selection which, ranging from 1960s
Petula Clark to One Direction, casts a cleverly wide appeal.
Humpty may take his fall, but only in a generally very good
cause, which certainly doesn't leave the Talisman with egg
on its face.