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 The Theatreguide.London Review

In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic forced the closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted by putting archive recordings of past productions online, others by streaming new shows. Until things return to normal we review the experience of watching live theatre onscreen.

Potted Panto
StreamTheatre   January 2021

This amiable little show strives for no more than to entertain kids and parents with some silliness, and it does that, which might be more admirable than trying for more and not getting there.

It belongs to a familiar fringe genre, of two guys trying to put on a big show, with their inevitable failures missed cues, problematic props and the like and surprising successes they do somehow get the stories told a big part of the fun.

Written by Daniel Clarkson, Jefferson Turner and Richard Hurst, and performed by the first two directed by the third, the show takes on the challenge of telling all six of the standard Christmas Panto stories in 70 minutes.

And so we get super-condensed versions of Snow White, Cinderella, Dick Whittington and the rest, mangled but somehow more-or-less successfully presented by Dan and Jeff with the anarchic enthusiasm of Saturday morning TV presenters (which the two have actually been in the past).

The running joke is that Jeff is trying to be serious and professional while Dan hasn't a clue. Offered the title role in Jack And The Beanstalk, he comes on as the beanstalk, while a limited supply of costumes means that Cinderella gets a fairy godchicken.

He has to have all the Panto rituals ('Behind you!', 'Oh no you're not', etc.) explained to him, and insists that A Christmas Carol and the Queen's Speech are also Pantos.

Meanwhile there are enough vomit, poo and wee jokes sprinkled about, and the teasing of somebody's father, and opportunities to get up and move, to delight the kids, and topical references to keep the parents happy.

This show has actually been floating around the fringe and provinces for ten years, with occasional stops in London, and it's beginning to show its age a bit the central joke of the Dick Whittington segment depends on Boris Johnson still being Mayor of London. Still, it's fast moving, the two guys are attractive, and the groan-worthy old gags ('The short answer is no.' 'And the long answer?' - 'Nooooooooooooooo.') score with a pretty good average.

So by the time they get to a mash-up of Aladdin and A Christmas Carol featuring the villain Abanazar Scrooge (possibly the best joke in the script), everyone is in a happy, satisfied holiday mood.

The show's planned Winter 2020 London season being cut short, it is available online.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of  Potted Panto 2021