POTTED PANTO Garrick Theatre Live Stream
 Jefferson Turner and Daniel Johnson    Photo: 2019 Geraint Lewis


Oh, what a year. So many theatres have been hit by this hideous pandemic, see-sawing from now we see it to now we don't. Preparations in place, social distancing organised and - nope, still cancelled. But best foot (or should I say feet) forward, with many offering online streaming. A great idea which does not begin to suggest it is a preferred option but rather the best possible during these trying times.

The Garrick Theatre has done just this. Rather than put the brakes on the return of the fab Potted Panto, it is being offered as an online stream. A difficult task here as so much relies on audience participation and interaction. Having attended and joined in last year in their performance, I recall the absolute joy of shedding all inhibitions and shouting along with the best of them. Pure delight! How on earth could this be achieved as an online performance? Would I be jumping up and calling out, whilst in front of my computer screen?

In fact, this is a recording of a live show. Not exactly what I had expected but it was nonetheless joyous to watch the reactions of the children and adults as they delighted in this daft spectacle. This is a production which demands audience reaction, which is integral and essential to its performance. We need the corn, the cheeky jokes and the slapstick of Potted Panto but also the audience gasps, whoops, boos and guffaws. So fair play.

Written and performed by ex-CBBC actors and Olivier Award nominees Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner, Potted Panto would have enjoyed its 10th season, this time at London's Garrick Theatre. Co-written by Richard Hurst with a creative team that does not fail to inspire zany design ideas, this is a 70 minute treat to a whizz-bang, helter-skelter ride through 6 much loved pantomime tales with which both young and old are familiar. Yep, it may not be the traditional retell, although Jeff offers some background info, but that is what makes it such fun. 

This cheeky pair play off each other brilliantly, a sort of modern-day Morecambe (Dan) and Wise (Jeff); the former unstoppable, the latter the more serious anchor. With precision comic timing and what appears as improvisation (oh no it doesn't, oh yes it does) the audience cheers and boos/hisses through the loopy takes on Aladdin, Dick Whittington, Snow White, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and Sleeping Beauty - and, yes, A Christmas Carol, ha ha! A high speed performance switching from one character to the other with great hilarity.

The duo, with short appearances by the singing fairy (Charlotte Payne), Mr Nut (Jacob Jackson) and Father Christmas (the real thing), maintain the bonkers momentum through this crazy romp, switching costumes at top speed (Nicky Bunch) in a stage full of entrances and exits and making use of props that are thrown at them, involving the audience in their silly gags. The old ones always work - oh no they don't, oh yes they do (sorry).

This is panto with a difference and is a much needed panacea at this tense and despairing time. Political quips, of course. Boris as London Mayor/Prime Minister Dick Whittington - 'Have you ever heard of a Dick being Prime Minister?' (ba boom) - say no more, and of course references to track and trace, social bubbles and Brexit. Ah, such is the stuff of pantomime. Adults (masked of course) chortle at the gags and kids snigger at the more obvious (er, buckets of poo - don't ask). Something for all. 

This alternative pantomime is great fun. It may not be traditional but it is gloriously disrespectful, creative and inventive, offering heaps of laughs despite our physical absence from the venue. Let's hope that their 11th return in 2021 will be enjoyed in the theatre, that this dreadful pandemic will be 'behind you' and that the jingle bells will ring out.

Boo hiss to the villain Covid and stay safe one and all.

Listings

This streamed version of the show is captured with a live audience at the Garrick Theatre during the show's tenth anniversary West End season in 2020.

Recommended to ages 6+.

To book: https://www.stream.theatre/season/20