Middle Child’s panto has a new home this year, moving from its previous base in Fruit, a converted warehouse, to Jubilee Central.
Initially, the space seems less suited to them. The high-ceilinged hall, a place of worship, doesn’t feel as intimate as Fruit, where the audience were pressed up close to a low stage. But over the course of the evening, with dame Marc Graham wandering out for some banter with the crowd, that gap soon vanishes.
Graham’s Belinda is one of the show’s highlights. He’s mesmerising, flitting through a range of different personas, including a drawling chanteuse with a cigar; he ad-libs with ease through the evening.
There’s also a genuinely funny and engaging script, with some of the action centred around Hull’s Humber Street, where evil toff Lord Wigbert (a preening James Stanyer) has some devilish, capitalist plans for this emerging hipster area.
Live music – led by James Frewer on the keyboards – adds a carnival-like spirit to the show, something of a house style for a company that staged a previous show in a Hull nightclub.
There’s a great line in self-deprecating humour, too. Special effects – including the looming shadow of the Beast, cast from somewhere up in the circle across the stage – are roundly mocked by the actors, alongside the production’s supposed inferiority to the New Theatre’s panto.
But, in truth, it feels far closer to the anarchic spirit of the season than glitzier shows, with the cast’s quick-witted retorts to the audience and the occasional wardrobe malfunction – a false moustache and hair-piece both make a bid for freedom – adding to the fun.