Theatre Royal, York
Making his entrance for no apparent reason atop a green dinosaur, York's grand dame Berwick Kaler ominously announces: "This year, there have been changes to the format." It creates a stir of anxiety that, after 33 years of no-expense-spared entertainment, the Theatre Royal pantomime has succumbed to austerity measures. In the end, it's pretty much business as usual, though economies have to be made and this year Kaler has decided to cut down on the water bill.
The York pantomime is famed for its wet slap sequence, for which the musicians in the orchestra pit take refuge beneath umbrellas while Kaler and his perennial stooge, Martin Barrass, receive a thorough dousing. This year there's a distinct absence of buckets; and though it would be sad to think the dunk-tank had passed into history, even the most traditional pantomimes must observe some form of evolution. So it is that Kaler, having emerged from the water, has taken to the air.
A piece of arial comedy with the dame in harness is another fixture of Kaler's shows; but this year his hobnail boots barely seem to touch the ground. There's a great high-wire sketch featuring a washing line, a unicycle and some blatant cheating, but the absolute highlight is a take-off of Tchaikovsky in which Kaler's dying swan plummets to earth like a grounded pheasant.
The plot bears little resemblance to Pastor Johann David Wyss's story of self-sufficient Swiss castaways intended as a morality tale for children. The only moral imparted here is not to book seats too close to the front. But the sea-faring setting gives scope for every naughty nautical joke in the pantheon ('Avast behind!' 'Don't be so personal') and an enjoyable film, in which the crew, having set sail for Devil's Island, go round in circles off the coast of Scarborough. David Leonard's evil Zantanus is reliably rotten; Suzy Cooper's Rosie Robinson is irresistibly bubbly and Julie-Anna Castro's Man Friday has a spectacular pair of legs for a bloke. But the defining memory is that of Kaler suspended several feet above the stage in full, Margot Fonteyn-mode. Really, it's tutu much.
Read the complete post at http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2011/dec/18/york-family-robinson-review
Dec 18 2011, 07:05 PM
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