Thursday, 5 December 2019

REVIEW: The Nativity Panto at the King's Head Theatre

This year's Kings Head Christmas offering is the thirteenth Pantomime from the marvellous Charles Court Opera and for once it is a show that fully delivers on the promise of the handbill with a musical that takes" the story that sparked the season to create their most joyous show yet". With a delightfully simple effective set, a fabulous cast of five, some delightful reworking of well known songs and a real appreciation of both Christmas and Pantomime they have magically produced an upbeat fun adult Pantomime that is a joy from start to finish.

Joe Christmas is a toy maker obsessed with making a potion to help Rudolf fly to deliver presents all over a world covered with snow and ice. Mary his wife longs for a child but he is too busy to oblige. When Mary meets the Holy Bush she falls instantly pregnant from a special prick. The three wise men journey to meet them, King Key (full of innuendo), King Size (full of Big Whoppers) and King Pin (full of vodka) with gifts of a white beard, a red hat and a bottomless bag. But Jack Frost wants to stop them and suck all the joy from the world with her assistant Snowflake. None of the parody is subtle but it is delivered in such a lively and entertaining way that even the most miserable grinch will enjoy it.

John Savourinin again writes and directs the show with the musical adaptions written and played by David Eaton and make sure it keeps up the pace in what turns out to be a short show leaving you wanting more. Jack Frost gives us a reworking of Vanilla Ice's "Ice, Ice baby" which Jennie Jacobs revels in the delivery of. We have a wonderful reworking of Barry Manilow's "Lola" at the Holy Day Inn and a hilarious reworking of the Spice Girls "Tell me what you want " (for breakfast). 

They pack the show with witty one liners, blatant innuendos and corny jokes including National Elf service, No Eye Deer, and meeting in a bookshop for a novel experience. In addition they thankfully dispense with the usual pre show sales pitch but instead cleverly integrate the various merchandise into the show in "subliminal messages". They also keep the Pantomime traditions of rhyming couplets, a songsheet (based on Slade's "Merry Christmas Everybody") and a very silly audience participation game. 

Jennie Jacobs and Matthew Kellett stand out in the show as Jack Frost and Joe
Christmas but are very well supported by Emily Cairns, Meriel Cunningham and Catrine Kirkman in all the other parts. They all have great comic timing and good voices and look like they are enjoying playing roles away from Opera. 

The set design by Rachel Szmukler is a Christmassy Gingerbread house in snowy hills with giant sugar canes and a small hand puppet amusingly pops up for short songs and together both add greatly to the production. 

This is a brilliantly fresh feeling Christmas show enhancing the reputation of the Charles Court Company, showcasing the talented cast and a fitting show for what the Kings Head must hope is the last Christmas at its spiritual home before it moves to a new building.

Review by Nick Wayne

Rating: ★★★★★

Seat: Row E | Price of ticket: £30
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