by Berwick Kaler.

Theatre Royal St Leonard’s Place YO1 7HD To 31 January 2015.
Mon-Thu; Sat 7.30pm Fri 4.30pm & 8pm Mat Sat & 1, 2, 5 Jan 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.

TICKETS: 01904 623568.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 17 December.

Panto done with love and flair.
Where else but in York could this work so well? It’s not a matter of Old Mother Goose so much as ‘this year’s Theatre Royal panto’? And ‘Theatre Royal panto’ is code for the name of the dame, Berwick Kaler. For half-a-lifetime, Kaler’s commanded the Christmas season stage here, writing and Dame-ing it, as well as co-directing with Artistic Director Damian Cruden.

It’s always colourful, Phil R Daniels and Charles Cusick Smith’s archetypical panto sets incorporating witty details in a mix of traditional village and modern skyline, brightly lit, and spot-lit, by Richard G Jones. There are apt, upbeat pop numbers; Grease’s ‘Summer Nights’ accompanies the regulation comic filmed insert, unseasonally relevant because Kaler’s Aggie Goosegog is seeking to reclaim her long-past youthful appearance – quite an ironic premise for a writer-performer who sees his 70th birthday looming.

Talking of birthdays, the annual warm-hearted show always ends with messages from the audience about birthdays, reunions and so on. This year one Yorkist transplanted to New Zealand at an early age had returned as an adult, determined to see this phenomenon older family members kept talking about. Every year families reunite at Christmas to visit Berwick.

Who spreads joy round stage and auditorium. At moments he may seem about to relish humiliating an audience member. But he never does it. Wagon Wheels and Newkies are distributed. Like the slapstick scene, things have gone beyond requiring plot justification. They happen because they always happen.

Slapstick there is, but nothing’s slapdash. Kaler values his pantomimes and their audiences. Nor is there anything to make a maiden aunt blush before young charges (a few moments come surprisingly close this year – perhaps maiden aunts are perceived to be toughening-up).

Perpetually youthful-looking Suzy Cooper is sweetly maidenish still, with just a few moments reminding that her CV between Christmases includes Howard Barker plays. Martin Barrass is as cheerfully unabashed as ever. And, oh joy, David Leonard returns as the fount of all evil. Others might match his snarls and sneers, but none the furry feline voice and sinuous movement in which he goes around soliciting ever-louder boos.

Egghead: Harry Hughes.
Puck A J Powell.
Margarine Goosegog: Suzt Cooper.
Barney Goosegog: Martin Barrass.
Aggie Goosegog: Berwick Kaler.
Fairycake Brenda/Matiolda the Goose: Hermione Lynch.
The Dreaded Lurgi: David Leonard.
Gayelord Tingly-Bottom: Tim Lawrence.
Danielle Mullan, Lauren Newton, Jake Lindsay, Faye Spooner, Cameron Macdonald.
Young People: Sam Roberts, Rory Vince, Indie Star Ramsay-Wilson, Francesca Mitten, Sophia Warn, Katie Clement/Oliver Fox, Harvey Jardine, Margaux Barker, Madeleine Hicks, Lottie Walker, Mathilde Barker.

Directors: Berwick Kaler, Damian Cruden.
Designers: Phil R Daniels, Charles Cusick Smith.
Lighting: Richard G Jones.
Musical Director: Elliot Styche.
Choreographer: Grace Harrington.

2015-01-03 18:19:11

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