Who: Written by James Rushbrooke, directed by Rory Hobson. Choreography by Sara Page.
Where and when: Questors Playhouse, Ealing, until 31 December. Tickets here.
Cast: James Goodden, Rosefinch Carr, Mike Hadjipateras, Frances Sherwin, Emily Turner, Mark Redrup, Caroline Ash, Kerri Logan, Sally Parker, Alex Marker, Dumitru Stratulat and Russell Fleet. Plus Young People’s Ensemble B.
Basic plot: King Arthur arrives at the home of Lord Drayton in search of his twelfth night, but finds himself locked in a dastardly conspiracy. Will Guinevere turn to the dark side? Will Esme go a-squiring? Will Lancelot pull his finger out?
Characters and performances: Eileen Sideways (Goodden as another marvellous Dame) and son Ivor (Carr), Lord Drayton (an amusing Hadjipateras), sister Margaret (tipsy Sherwin), daughter Esme (Turner in panto debut).
King Arthur and Queen Guinevere (regal Redrup and Ash), Sir Lancelot (a doltish Stratulat), Merlin (an assured Marker, also Artistic Director here), Morgana and Mordred (hissable idiocy from Logan and Parker), the Dark Lord (scenestealer Fleet), assorted squires, maids and bit parts.
Audience interaction: Boos, cheers, ‘he’s behind you’ and ‘oh no, it isn’ts’ all present and correct. A lively crowd enjoyed the group shoutouts and the singalongs.
Atmosphere: Lots of children and Questors supporters gave this a definite festive feel. No standing up to sing this time, but all went well.
Music: Relying heavily this year on musical theatre classics, with numbers based on Hairspray, Les Mis, Chicago (a fab riff on the ‘Cell Block Tango’), and Book of Mormon. Plus, some rockin’ numbers for the baddies.
Technical: Generally good, although the light cues were a bit mistimed now and then. A decent set (by Alex Marker) and some very good puppet work with a large monster and a phoenix.
Cuteness factor: Woodland animals played by the youngest in the company; mouse and chick puppets.
Regional/contemporary relevance: We are in Ealing so King Arthur stays at Drayton Court and there are jibes at Acton and Hounslow, with Morgana revealing why she is banned from Hanwell Zoo. Character Marshall Speakers is a nod to the rock past of the Ealing Club. One character discovers their gender fluidity.
Final verdict: *** (and a half). A good, solid, community panto which takes an unusual story for the season and ticks all the right boxes.
Image credit: Carla Evans