Imagine the scene. A resting actor sits in their garden enjoying the summer sun. They flick through “The Stage” on their electronic news reader. The phone rings – it is their agent, with good news. The Panto job in Colchester is theirs for the taking! The actor smiles, content in the knowledge that the bills will be paid through the winter.
What that agent may have forgotten to mention is that, in this seasonal role, the actor will have to be the foil to one of the best Panto Dames in the country (Anthony Stuart-Hicks), and that they will be totally upstaged by the diminutive figure of a man playing the part of a cow (Dale Superville).
For our first Panto of the season, we made the trip south to The Mercury Theatre for their production of Jack and the Beanstalk, the story of… oh, come off it, you know the story by now.
What you may not have been expecting is Jack having delusions of being Flash Gordon, nor the most excellent rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody by the cast. Yes, of course The Giant’s castle was in a galaxy so far, far away that you could see The Death Star – complete with a Storm Trooper chorus line! Thought you knew Jack & The Beanstalk? Think again!
Ignatius Anthony (Fleshcreep) and Carli Norris (Fairy Gladys) are no strangers to a Mercury Panto, so one assumes they knew what they were letting themselves in for. Phil Sealey (King Norbert) and Madeleine Leslay (Jill) may have been new to Colchester Panto but both threw themselves into the fun and frolics.
The Mercury has developed a reputation for doing Panto well and this year is no exception. It is funny on various levels but never crude. There is music a-plenty and sing-a-longs to ensure you feel part of the production. When lines are forgotten there is nowhere to hide and little if any help for your fellow actors – “Oh my God, was that a line from the actual script?”
On Friday night we were joined in the auditorium by a large band of Brownies who ensured that ‘behind you’, ‘oh yes it is’ and all of the standard lines were screamed at a pitch audible to the canine population of Balkerne Gate and its environs.
On a personal note, having Dotty Trott envelop me under her not inconsiderable skirts will doubtless lead to years of therapy and medication. I must remember not to book an end of aisle seat next year!
A cracking nights entertainment at a uniquely British art form – go see it. Click here to book tickets.