By Neil Durham
WORTH A LOOK?: **** RUNTIME: 155 minutes (including a 20-minute interval)
WHEN?: Sunday 11 December (matinee), runs to 15 January 2023
We’re in the 4th row behind a group of women who are finding Julian Clary’s character The Spirit Of The Beans uproariously funny and even taking sneaky pictures of his very many costume changes.
- Read on for reasons including how it is Clary’s saucy quips which once again steal the show
We’ve visited the annual London Palladium pantomime every year since its reappearance at this venue in 2016 with a Cinderella which starred Clary and since then he’s gone on to be the big reason why this big budget variety show works so well.
You join us in Old Compton-on-the-turn where Dawn French plays a particularly fertile Dame Trot in a Devonian accent who clearly gets on well with Clary because she’s described as ‘a budget Mirian Margolyes’ as he observes: ‘This is what happens when you employ one half of a very funny double act. The wrong half.’
Clary arrives later than expected in 1 of his many outrageous costume changes to a modified Spirit In The Sky describing himself as ‘Shirley Bassey with gangrene’ and noting his growth powers: ‘I will shoot up against a wall.’
We wonder how the riskier material is going down and the young family next to us are absolutely in stitches throughout. Clary turns his attentions on his audience’s attire: ”There’s people wearing felt out there. Where can you get felt round here? Round the back of Morrison’s.’
And reflects on last year’s co-star Donny Osmond (Pantoland At The Palladium): ‘Me and Donny got on very well. He invited me to Las Vegas. I’m sure he wanted me to open for him.’
He’s very appreciative of the assets of Louis Gaunt playing the titular Jack who at 1 point wears pants so tight he could be bouncing off the walls to misquote Absolutely Fabulous.
Elsewhere Rob Madge (My Son’s A Queer) as cow Pat has a lot of fun riffing on old musicals with French and Gaunt in particular.
Gary Wilmot’s tongue-twister number I’ve Not Been Well is a ribtickler and adapted panto fave routine If Nigel Havers Did Retire lampoons its titular hero with props brilliantly.
Ventriloquist Paul Zerdin lets the children in the audience reluctant to shout out at him into a beautiful secret of live theatre: ‘You can talk to me. It’s not a TV.’
And pop star Alexandra Burke wheels out some of her greatest hits including Bad Boys and Hallelujah.
We’re so close to the stage we can feel the heat of the flames and when the beanstalk goes up from the stalls at the interval it’s clear what an impressive and big budget show this is.
The Palladium pantomime continues to be a real treat for all the family but for those on a budget we still think its sister act at Greenwich Theatre – this year with Robin Hood – is the 1 to see.
- Main picture via Facebook courtesy The London Palladium Pantomime Tickets
- Have you seen a London Palladium pantomime before and what did you think of this 1?
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