WORTH A LOOK?: *****
WHERE? Greenwich Theatre RUNTIME: 150 minutes (including 20-minute interval)
WHEN? 29/11 (press night), runs to 12/1/20
Welcome to a show worthy of the West End but at a fraction of the ticket price that speaks to what it is like to live in this beautiful nook of south-east London.
- Read on for reasons including what writer/dame/director Andrew Pollard thinks of this show stopping panto
Greenwich Theatre was bombed during World War Two and in 1962 the council was considering demolishing it when a local actor called Ewan Hooper rallied troops and reopened it seven years later.
2019 is the 50th anniversary of that reopening and this pantomime imagines Ewan (actor Regan Burke dons a kilt at one point and sings the Proclaimers’ I’m Gonna Be before protesting about male objectification) discovering a Faberge egg in the venue’s bowels and, through Greenwich’s time travelling portals, being transported back to Russia in 1851 and the lesser known Greenovovich.
Regular monstagigz readers will know that we recently interviewed Greenwich panto star/dame/writer/director Andrew Pollard (pictured left above) and we’ve been raving about this annual highlight of our festive calendar since 2015.
How does this year’s offer compare? Well it starts slowly although we warmed early to Martin Johnston’s Tsar Ivan The Slightly Irritable not least when he stepped way out of his comfort zone to rap triumphantly to Chic’s Good Times.
Anthony Spargo (pictured right top above) is an old foil of Pollard’s and we can’t imagine a better introduction to his character Rasputin than during a magnificent re-imagination of one of 2019’s best song’s Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy (watch below).
We’ve remarked on Pollard’s Remainer credentials previously and, although this production isn’t quite so pointed, we have a Scottish hero making his way in Russia with a male Swedish au pair (see picture below) thrown in with ABBA references and a fleeting same sex affection to boot.
There’s also fierce heroine Anastacia (Esme Bacalla-Hayes is air-punchingly bold) and Funlola Olufunwa’s story-defining Fairy Faberge to root for before meeting Eli Caldwell’s cute and memorable Bjorn.
Pollard’s Tsarina Bertha is always good value and the black pudding gags would thrill an older audience without ever offending the families that would clearly appreciate the spectacle and heart of what is on offer.
If we had one criticism this year it would be that the amazing aerial hi-jinks and snow falling into the auditorium detracted a little from the pull of the emotion of the pantomime’s story.
But the sight of an audience of all ages being distributed ‘moon puddings’ and then throwing them at the stage in choreography to defeat the bad guys made up for any misgivings.
The variety of the musical choices means this pantomime is always a pleasure and while we marvelled at the elegant Beatles choices it was the more recent Lizzo tracks that popped for us.
Greenwich is lucky to have London’s finest and funniest pantomime on its doorstep and long may its creator Andrew Pollard be allowed to be quite so bold – if on a budget. Don’t miss this year’s best value pantomime treat.