It may have been socially distanced but this was one of the funniest and most entertaining pantos I’ve seen.
Have you ever had one of those days where it feels like Friday 13th, broken mirrors, walking under ladders and running over a black cat all at once?
That’s what my day at work was like. If I was ever in need of something to cheer me up it was today. Luckily, a night out at the panto was on the cards and it was the best medicine I could have asked for.
This was my first time at [email protected] and it is the most unusual set up I’ve come across.
From the moment you arrive there’s a very friendly welcome at the door, before you climb a beanstalk clad staircase to the stage level where you’re escorted to your seat and your drink order is taken, then brought to you.
The audience is seated on two floors either side of the stage which fills the centre of the room. I’ve never had so much space around me in a theatre, and the clear screens separating you from your neighbour were so cleverly thought out you forgot they were there.
I really liked being able to see the audience’s reactions on the opposite side of the stage, something that you miss in a traditional theatre layout.
It is evident a lot of thought has gone into this setup and it works brilliantly. Once the performance started it felt as though you were watching from the stage itself, a little surreal but nonetheless enjoyable.
The cast use the space cleverly and move around in such a way that everyone can see what is happening.
As you’d expect of a panto it was full of local, topical and very modern references and there were rather a lot of groan-worthy jokes. Given the current climate, Covid and its impact feature heavily, yet it still manages to come across as light-hearted and entertaining.
This panto was a refreshing change to the same old same old that is often served up at Christmas time. Whilst the story of Jack and The Beanstalk is quite traditional, the version served up here was deliciously different.
The extremely talented cast of eight sang and danced the night away while engaging the audience throughout. I found it really hard to pick out any individual performance above the others as each of them shone at different times.
This is a cast full of incredible voices, the songs aren’t those you’d expect in a panto but fit the story, and the voices blended together well in the group numbers.
They are also talented dancers; the choreography was well thought out and made the most of the space available. The routine in the Stomping Room was probably the one I enjoyed the most because of the sheer amount of skill required. It could so easily have gone wrong but didn’t and was the one that got the biggest laugh out of me.
Jordan Fox plays the role of Jack, a simple lad at times with some very convincing teenage affectations whilst harbouring superhero ambitions. Not only does he have you laughing out loud at his antics including his Tik Tok talents, wait till you see him in Lycra!
May Tether as Jill has a stunning voice, one moment she’s chatting away in a convincing regional accent and the next she’s blowing you away with her vocal ability.
Alex Weatherhill is a superb Dame, carrying off the outlandish outfits wonderfully, there were times I wondered how he didn’t topple over with some of the hats he had to wear and as for the western outfit –I’m not sure I’ll ever get that image out of my head.
Ian Stroughair is the bad guy in all of this as the character Flesh Creep. The audience enthusiastically boo all his entrances, but I don’t think anyone could really hate him, he was just too good.
Livvy Evans plays Fairy Mary, the trainee fairy who’s slightly out of her depth trying to save the village of Monkgateshire from the wrath of the Giant. She’s ditzy, sassy and just a little bit zany. Ensemble members Matthew Ives, Danielle Mullan and Emily Taylor complete and complement the cast, all giving brilliant performances.
The performance is ninety minutes straight through and is packed full of energy. It was obvious the cast were enjoying themselves. Whilst the show works really well in the space available it was so good I feel it deserves a much bigger venue.
This has been a horrible year for everyone, however, if you’d like an escape and something safe, seasonal and highly entertaining then look no further. This show is well worth your time and is suitable for the whole family. Well done York Stage and Nick Briggs for this well thought out and fantastic event.