From the moment Fairy Bowbells flies on stage swathed in gold, aping Rhianna’s Umbrella you knew you were in for a fun evening, Hackney style. All the usual ingredients are in place to ensure this frothy confection rises to the occasion. Clive Rowe is spot on as London’s premiere dame, immediately bonding with his audience and raising the roof with cheeky asides or simply a pursing of his lips. Tameka Empson brings the whole audience to their feet with her reggae dance routine and Tony Whittle as Fitzwarren blends in an old-style variety flavour to the proceedings.
For the youngsters there’s MTV favourite Kat bounding around the stage as Idle Jack and giving the audience plenty to boo about, David Ashley makes for a deliciously wicked King Rat. Hannah-Jane Fox as Dick and Sophia Ragavelas as Alice are juvenile leads with great stage presence, strident voices and perhaps, most importantly, a sense of fun. Special mention has to go to Mike Denman as Puss, a livelier, more expressive, more agile moggy has probably never graced a pantomime.
Medieval London, the Saucy Sally, Monkey Island and the Sea Bed all spring vividly to life, thanks to Lotte Collette’s gregarious and imaginative designs. To date, this is writer/director Susie McKenna’s ninth panto for the Empire and long may she continue. Which other show in town will you find Ian McKellen and Barbara Windsor, no stranger to a panto stage themselves, dancing along to the song sheet in the stalls?