Above The Stag Theatre (venue)
24 November 2019 (released)
26 November 2019
The Pantomime season has started with a cracker. The Above The Stag Theatre's 's 11th pantomime is a joyous romp from start to finish.
The script by Jon Bradfield and Martin Hooper is crammed with so much delightful innuendo that the audience often missed some moments because they were laughing so much. This pairing know their adult audience extremely well, and mercilessly hold a magic mirror up to gay life.
It is a delight to have original catchy tunes and saucy lyrics (by Jon Bradfield) that perfectly fit with the characters and the Italian settings within the story of Pinocchio.
In this Production, the puppet is carved by the Dame (Geppetta). Matthew Baldwin is quite honestly brilliant in an understated way, that makes the Dame's saucy conversation richer and absolutely hilarious. She is assisted in her puppet workshop by the silly Cornetta (Christy Bellis) whose failure to find herself a girl, in a coastal town called Placenta, creates both funny and touching moments. Briony Rawle as Chianti their 'Chav' cat completes the household. Her entrance through a cat flap is a comedy classic. Geppetta is hotly pursued by Pedro the boatman (Shane Barraggan) whose singing voice, and one revealing moment in the Tunnel of Love, bring her around.
The town is run by the deliciously wicked Figaro the Fox (Christopher Lane) though rich, powerful, sex-crazed and Evil, still can't resist a furk through the bins. He inexplicably signs up a famous Brummie Footballer Joe (Oli Dickson) to play for Placenta FC. But this is panto, and Joe's cheeky self-obsession, and the fact that he is a gay footballer, creates humour whilst reminding us of the prejudice that still exists.
Dami Olukoya's delightful Fatima the fairy furthers the mayhem by providing the magic that transforms the little wooden puppet, who in the hands of Geppetta can be posed in positions that would make Disney blush. The then transformed Pinocchio (Jared Thompson) shows great physicality and innocence when discovering that he can sing, dance and fancy Joe the footballer. This makes for a totally engaging Pinocchio. There is of course a certain expectation, that when Pinocchio lies, a certain part of his anatomy grows, and no surprise it isn't his nose. Though predictable this creates extremely funny moments
Director Andrew Beckett has done a masterful job, and the set design by David Shields is 'Pantomime Perfect' , making clever use of the space. Jackie Orton's costume designs are witty and have just the right amount of sparkle. Carole Todd's choreography gives much to the pizzazz and humour of the musical numbers, which are given exactly the right level of 'Italianness' by musical director Aaron Clingham.
What is most impressive is the quality that is achieved throughout this production. It's a saucy adult pantomime that never for a moment forgets it's Pantomime traditions. It also has a hugely important message about how labelling who we fancy creates barriers . Without labels were are allowed to be who we want to be.