Buttons, King’s Head London, 4****: William Russell



Script by John Savournin Music & Lyrics by David Eaton.

The King’s Head Theatre, 115 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 1QN to 5 January 2019.


Tues-Sat 7pm. Children’s matinees 1,28,29 Dec & 2 Jan at 3pm.

John Savournin appears on 23,27,28,29 & 30 December & 1 January at 7pm. On other dates the dame is played by Jamie Barwood.

Runs 2 hr One interval.

TICKETS: 0207 226 8561.




Review: William Russell 27 November.

A Christmas cracker

Whether Buttons is the best pantomime in town it is early days to say, but if there is a better dame around than John Savournin in this tale of the teddy bear who loves Cinderella then I will eat the proverbial hat. Blessed with a booming voice, louche good looks, magnificent Betty Grable legs and a dress sense to send Madonna into a decline his performance as Betty, Cinderella’s mum, is a triumph. Nor is Savournin just a good looking dame. He also wrote the show.

While it has its high points, and in Matthew Kellett as the teddy bear turned into a handsome young human called Buttocks by his fairy godfather, Savournin a co-star of equal comic resource, the show has its occasional longeurs. There is a protracted scene with ghosts in the second half which goes on far too long. On the other hand the Charles Court Opera panto tradition of having a pastry making scene is there in all its glory. Two audience members are invited up to do the kneading with the Dame concentrating on the hunk and ignoring the girl . She produced a disastrous mess, the hunk, allegedly a corporate lawyer, rose to the occasion, and the leftovers got thrown at the audience who threw them back.

On press night you get the adult version so there was a reasonable amount of smut, but nothing that Aunt Edna would find distasteful, and the lousy puns were well up to pantomime standard. There is also a lot of audience involvement, a meaningless catch phrase to shout, some very pretty costumes, lots of well sung songs and a plot of sorts. Fairyland has a mass murderer called the Magic Menace doing dirty deeds who is in fact Prince Charming – Jennie Jacobs deserving to be hissed to kingdom come. Charming has taken a fancy to wed Cinderella and with the help of Dandini – Emily Cairns, who also manipulates Buttons’ Fairy godfather – he invites her to a ball. Naturally Mummy goes too taking PC Pumpkin (Andrea Tweedale doing a good straight man act) the policeman she fancies as her dancing partner. Through all the mayhem Eleanor Sanderson Nash sails gloriously, a sweetly voiced Cinderella with a very nice wardrobe who likes nothing better than to cuddle up in bed with a good book and her teddy bear quite unaware of the lust beneath the orange plush.

The plot does rather fade off in act two although Buttock does get the girl, Buttons being dispatched to wherever teddy bears go by his fairy godfather. Sadly the budget has not run to a final walk down when the lovers appear in their wedding finery and the Dame in something even more outrageous than what has gone before. But the Charles Court Opera are back on form – this is a renovated version of an old hit, after a slight hiccup last year with King Tut. Savournin rules the roost with aplomb, vigour, terrible jokes and a really filthy laugh, Kellett, his mini me is on form, and this really is a cracker of a show which could well turn out the best in town.

Since Savournin also directs Jamie Barwood who plays Mummy for some of the run should keep up the good work since although one lauds the great man this is by no means a one man show.

Cinderella: Eleanor Sanderson Nash.

Buttons: Matthew Kellett.

Betty, Cinderella’s Mum: John Savournin & at some performances Jamie Barwood.

PC Pumpkin: Andrea Tweedale & at some performances Catrine Kirkman.

Prince Charming: Jennie Jacobs.

Dandini: Emily Cairns.

Percussionist: Dave Jennings.

Director: John Savournin.

Musical Director: David Eaton.

Associate Director & Choreographer: Shelby Williams.

Set Designer: Louie Whitemore.

Costume Designer: Mia Wallden & Catrin Short Thursson.

Lighting Designer: Nicholas Holdridge.

Production photographs: Bill Knight.


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