BILLY THE KID – A PANTO WESTERN
by John Savournin original lyrics and music by David Eaton.
Rosemary Branch Theatre 2 Shepperton Road N1 3DT To 10 January 2015.
Runs 2 hr One interval.
TICKETS: 0207 704 6665.
Review: William Russell 1 December.
The Rosemary Branch Pantomimes staged by Charles Court Opera, now in their eighth year, written by and starring John Savournin, have become an institution, among the best pantomimes in London, witty and scurrilous in the best possible worst taste without a reality TV star or American soap relic anywhere in sight.
Casts are small, but their talents large. Set in the Wild West; the plot, such as it is, involves Billy the Kid (twinkling Matthew Kellett in fine voice) being coveted by travelling salesman Micky Mumford (Bruce Graham, oozing evil). Billy is a real kid (and boy can that kid tap-dance) belonging to strapping young rancher Buckaroo Dan (Joanne Marie Skillett).
Eventually these three, plus the Sheriff (glorious Amy J Payne, a veteran of these pantos) and Mumford’s unwilling Indian girl, Pocabeaver (Nichola Jolley), set-off in search of hidden treasure which once belonged to an Indian called Riding Bareback. And everything ends happily.
For an anxious ten minutes I wondered whether Savournin had lost his touch. The opening song sequence (very well sung) is not all that funny and seems to last for ever. However, things look up when Nelly Knockers, owner of the inevitable saloon, (Savournin in precipitous wig and a yellow gown showing off his lanky form) storms onto the range.
He can deliver double meanings with the best, manipulates his audience with skill, and never once suggests he is a drag queen. Think a butch, six-foot, North of England Joyce Grenfell and something of Nelly might come to mind.
Her catch-phrase, not overused, is to get the audience to tell her when she displays her feminine wiles – “Stop with the twerking, you’re meant to be working.”
Nelly’s replaced in Act Two by her lost sister, Raging Hormone, an Indian recluse, wearing a stuffed koala bear on her head, and, unlike her sister, fancying the Sheriff. There’s a bison which gets milked, puns which get laboured to delicious death, and a custard pie which ends-up on an audience member’s head. But above all it has Mr Savournin, who really should be up there with the great pantomime dames.
Buckaroo Dan: Joanne Marie Skillett.
Nelly (a Saloon owner)/Raging Hormone: John Savournin.
Micky Mumford (a peddler): Bruce Graham.
Pocabeaver (his servant): Nichola Jolley.
The Sheriff: Amy J Payne.
Billy the Kid: Matthew Kellett.
Director/Choreographer: John Savournin.
Lighting: Nic Holdridge.
Musical Director: David Eaton.
Additional choreography: Damian Czarnecki.
Costume: Mia Wallden.