What do you get if you cross a slinky suited rat man, a larger than life ginger tom cat, a deaf fairy, a butch cook, a boy from the streets and some aliens obsessed with cheese?
Why, this year’s pantomime at Theatre Royal Stratford East, of course. Regular writing duo Trish Cooke and Robert Hyman are back after a year’s hiatus with a brilliantly anarchic offering that takes what’s happening in the world around us, scrunches it up, adds a lot of sparkle, fabulous songs, some mad fantasy and lobs it right back at you.
The duo give the story of the boy who becomes mayor of London a hefty modern tug: there’s economic misery, homelessness, unemployment, gangs and poverty all happening in ‘Lowdown town’. So when sassy boy of the streets Dick arrives, it’s up to him to realise his potential and become the mayor everyone needs.
Jenny Tiramani and Harriet Barsby’s magnificent set and costume designs shine throughout, from the quiff-haired baddy Rat King – played with a nice dose of tongue-in-cheek by Michael Bertenshaw – to a gloriously fuzzy life-sized ginger costume for Cool Cat – Tony Jayawardena, who gives Antonio Banderas’s Puss from ‘Shrek’ a run for his money in the feisty sidekick stakes. Everything, especially the spiky, cheesy alien world of the second half, looks as bright and as weird as it possibly could.
In Kerry Michael’s tight, spunky production, the line-up of loveable oddball characters are given the chance to sing the hell out of songs which mix samba, rap, grunge, power ballads and rock ‘n’ roll. And, of course, there’s much cheeky audience interaction, including suitably puerile jokes for the adults – like the hilarious moment the audience find themselves chanting ‘We want Dick’ at the tops of their voices. Londoners, take note: I know where my vote lies for this year’s lord mayor of panto.
By Daisy Bowie-Sell