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Sunday, 11 December 2022

REVIEW: Sleeping Beauty at The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury

There are a lot of lines to learn in Sleeping Beauty – and that’s just for the audience! In addition to those which you have to call out for the entrance of various characters, there’s a whole range of bits of business which are traditional to the Marlowe theatre panto season itself. As they say – it's the law. As a Marlowe novice, there were moments where it felt like you’ve been invited to a friend’s house at Christmas and are suddenly expected to fall in with peculiar family traditions which everyone else finds completely normal.

Fortunately, the cast are warm and welcoming, so you don’t feel like an outsider for long. The production also has a refreshing quality which, as a veteran of many, many pantos, was a delight to discover. The quality in question is the way in which the show works for both adults and children but does so with almost no hint of a double-entendre. Now I’m not averse to these and have enjoyed many of Julian Clary’s innuendo-laced Palladium pantos, but this show is pitched perfectly so you don’t notice how carefully it’s been crafted, meaning such easy laughs are not needed and not missed.

Thursday, 31 December 2020

REVIEW: Nurse Nellie saves Panto at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury (Online)

Paul Hendy's Evolution produces some very good shows and the Marlowe in Canterbury is home for one of his productions. It won Best Pantomime (750-1500 seats) in 2017 and its regular Dame, Ben Roddy, won Best Dame in 2018. Also his Musical Director, James Harrison won best musical supervision in the 2020 Awards. As the usual Pantomimes were cancelled, Evolution created a short-form show which is available in an online stream for both the Marlowe and the Sheffield venues. Hendy has written the script and directs the shows and uses the same basic script for both venues, although thanks to Walker Construction, the Marlowe show is available for free. It distils the essence of Panto into a high energy, high-quality capture from the stage of the venue with a limited audience of employees to provide some reaction.

Nurse Nellie runs the Panto Emporium from which Professor Von BadApple (Ian Kirby) plans to steal the props and the essence of Panto. Can the Dame with the help of her son Billy (Lloyd Hollett) and heroine Jill (Cara Hodgson) stop him with the help of the Fairy, Clarice Alexander Burnett? This thin plotline provides the connection between a series of clever new jokes and classic old gags which are brilliantly delivered by the cast. They know how to point the joke, repeating the setup line before delivering the punchline, to maximise the effect. The show has plenty of Covid jokes, those that "take two weeks to see if you get it" and mocks the shortage of toilets rolls by making them the item the audience must watch to stop it being stolen. It also pokes fun at the awful Government Advert for non-essential jobs, such as actors, retraining by referencing Fatima. ( NB. Like the script itself this review is an edited version of the Sheffield review!).

Monday, 4 December 2017

PANTOMIME REVIEW: Peter Pan at Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury

The Marlowe production in 2016 won a pantomime of the year award with Dick Whittington and this year's offering of Peter Pan starts with great confidence using a camera to poke fun at the audience and an excellent Peter Pan graphic and London skyline animation. This transports us into a very strong opening scene in the Darling's nursery. The fresh approach bringing the whole cast into the nursery, not just the Darling family and Peter Pan but also Mrs Smee, Lily and Starkey. Their entrances, the children through the stalls, Mr Darling in a circle box and Peter flying in from the upper circle creates an exciting dynamic opening. Added to this is a break dancing Nana the dog, an effective projected dancing shadow and a lively dance routine. 

The strong opening continues with a good flying sequence to "Don't stop me now" to Neverland and a brilliant comedy routine with a wheelbarrow of fruit which firmly establishes Mrs Smee, Starkey and Hook as the driving energy of the production. But just as Mrs Smee comments "if you listen carefully you can hear the sound of JM Barrie revolving" , the show settles into a traditional telling of his Peter Pan story and the production never quite hits this level of the opening scenes.
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