Royal Court, Liverpool.
December 13, 2021-January 22, 2022; run time 2hrs 30mins
Apologies if you arrived here from social media, which for a time wrongly credited the Everyman theatre
IT’S made very clear on the posters and programmes: don’t bring the kids!
But being Liverpool, some did – and there were duly occasional acknowledgements to the smattering of youngsters from the cast.
But what we were really being party to was a panto for grown-ups: an unadulterated and uproarious celebration of the local lingo, spliced through with a liberal sprinkling of expletives, lashings of innuendo, and a modicum of physical touchy-feely. But, not – as would have once been the case when language constraints were lifted – any political incorrectness of the old Bernard Manning/Alf Garnet variety.
In that sense, even adult panto appears to have been duly purged of the easy-target social prejudices of old.
Nevertheless, there’s a whiff of something distinctly tribal in the air, with a great sense of local ownership.
Welcome to the skint Kingdom of Poundland, set just prior to Liverpool becoming 2008 European Capital of Culture, and the era when the city still had World Heritage status (prior to recently losing the accolade by building too many high-rises on the waterfront).
Kevin Fearon, the Royal Court’s executive producer, once again provides the script, and the director is Stephen Fletcher, now a veteran of many shows from what has become the nearest you can get to an indigenous local repertory company.
This happy band of Scouse thesps, and attendant musicians led by Howard Gray, have invented their own brand of often-raucous entertainment which, in turn, has been rewarded by fiercely-loyal audiences.
And now to the show itself: Andrew Schofield acts as narrator to the suitably-skewed traditional story, doubling as the evil Crow, henchman to the menacing witch Maleffluent (Lindzi Germain).
This pair are the driving force of the production: Scofield’s stooping, sneering carion – almost perfectly modelled, it could be argued – on Laurence Olivier’s Richard III, while Germain’s booming curse-casting pretender is in every sense larger than strife, incurring a belief that, if a quick getaway were required, she she could kick-start a jumbo jet.
The beauteous princess Ora (Jamie Clarke) – not exactly sleeping but wide awake for most of the action – is partnered for love interest by Scouse (Michael Fletcher) to suitably rev up the eventual triumphant romantics.
And when it comes to variety at court, as it were, there’s Liam Tobin’s King, capable of transforming at will into the guises of Tommy Cooper, Eric Morecambe and even that greatest of Scouse entertainers, Ken Dodd.
Information and tickets here