This is Kenneth Alan Taylor’s 37th pantomime for the Nottingham Playhouse. I’ve seen almost all of them and I think this is a strong contender for his best yet.
A kitchen scene where John Elkington’s sublimely arch and matronly Dame is berating a quivering rabbit for not hopping into the pie dish – “It’s for your own good. Get in”– sums up the wonderful daftness of it all. The scene goes on to involve a cleaver, some chocolate raisins and Bright Eyes from Watership Down.
It’s gloriously costumed thanks to Tim Meacock’s stunning designs. But the hallmark of this panto remains its crystal-clear storytelling and the performances of a seasoned and well-loved cast, coupled with some new faces.
They include Toyin Ayedun-Alase as a fierce, rich-toned Maleficent, and Lisa Ambalavanar making a very impressive professional debut as Fairy Wiseheart. The thigh-slapping Principal Boy tradition established here by Susie McKenna continues with Louise Dalton’s swashbuckling Prince Alexander. Alongside them Rebecca Little makes an ebullient Queen Gertrude.
It’s the warmth and conviction that make it so enjoyable. You can almost feel the waves of goodwill connecting the audience and actors. There are no celebrity acts here, just shamelessly old gags, inventive choreography, and a medley of songs for the audience to roar out – including Rockin’ All Over the World, performed by Elkington and Tim Frater (a bouncy Jerry the Jester). The show is nothing short of a masterclass in how to do panto that genuinely works for the whole family.