Note: This production is stopping off for a six-week engagement in the Wesf End before a tour well into April.
London prices are very high for panto (and this doesn’t have the production values of the Palladium), so we opted for an Upper Circle ticket – row D, central – for £40.
Could we see?: Luckily we had no leaners in front and were not far back enough to miss the top of the stage (not used in this production but we remember one years ago where we watched legs without torso/head).
Today, the show was designed with all in mind. We heard about detailed costumes but can’t speak to that; we were pleased as to the relative nearness of the stage to our seat.
Could we hear?: Lots of speakers and a smashing sound balance meant we caught every note and word, even the asides.
Were we entertained? Let’s be honest, if you’re paying for this, you’re going to see noted thesp Ian McKellen play the Dame. And he’s having a ball, tap dancing, rocking a variety of outfits, and singing (of sorts).
John Bishop adds the much needed warm comedy with the audience, and Anna-Jane Casey (Cilla Quack, the goose) and Oscar Conlon-Morrey (son Jack) have the MT chops.
You don’t get the sweeties or other thrown stuff above the stalls, though.
What’s the plot like? Jonathan Harvey tries to be relevant with a recurring rant at the energy companies and a rather cruel dig at Camilla, but this is the basic story of fame and vanity with added ‘Serena’ gags in act 2.
Is it worth the money? For what I paid, perhaps, as the legroom and comfort were fine. For the more than £100 ticket in the stalls, YMMV.
This isn’t a big budget production, and highlighting the lack of children in the pricey seats in Bishop’s prologue perhaps underlines the fact that panto should be, before anything else, accessible.
Final verdict? A delight for fans of any of the leads. But sadly, out of reach of many financially, although we still applaud the fundraising for theatre in general from McKellen’s previous shows.
And, backstage crew, stay out of sight – one of you wandered on, twice, at the second show on Sunday.
My advice? Grab a rush or discounted ticket if you can, or catch this show on tour.
Image credit: Manuel Harlan