Days that make a splendid night
The Twelve Days of Christmas
Dovehouse Theatre, Solihull
Make no mistake
about it: this is a little cracker of a pantomime. It has a happy young
company that sparkles with promise – including one member who appeared
on opening night with an arm that he broke the previous evening when he
became another victim of the weather.
It does, however,
contain one basic mistake, a flouting of pantomime tradition. It was
evident on the first night, when the wonderfully wicked Wizbad (Jasmine
Rawlins) walked up to the delightful Fairy Queen (Ellie Snowdon). This
is something that should never happen – though it is easily
rectified – because tradition decrees that Good and Evil shall never
meet. Good appears and remains stage right; Evil's place is stage left.
They are separated by an invisible line in the middle of the stage and
they must never cross it.
This said, however, their every appearance is a
bonus. Both of them have excellent diction and are a pleasure to listen
to. Both of them command the stage when they are there. Ellie has a
twinkling prettiness; Jasmine has confident authority, provoking the
boos and handling them splendidly. These are opponents who make a
It was only hours before curtain-up that director
Deb Brook was told that 15-year-old Chris Tierney (Izzy) would be able
to appear. The previous day, he had slipped while getting into a car and
broken his arm. During the interval, the word was that he was not very
well – but no one in the audience would have suspected this for a
moment. He gives a lively performance as the son of Gertie Gusset, whom
James Hudson creates with a brashness in the best dame tradition.
Izzy and Gertie, with the happy Suzie (Georgia
Towler) re-create the classic Wilson, Keppel and Betty Sand Dance when
the action moves to Egypt – a location that finds the name of that
famous tomb being interpreted as Toot and come in – a line that
was new to me and well worth its place in a script whose writer
unfortunately receives no credit in the programme. We also meet the
nine-carrot necklace, composed of pointed orange vegetables.
Other dance moments that score splendidly as we
follow the action round the world in search of the vital keys that
unlock the secrets of the days before Christmas are the Can-Can, The
Lambeth Walk and Living the Vida Loco. And we must not
overlook those unexpected penguins, who prompt chuckles with such
apparent ease – though as the peaks of their caps are supposed to be
their beaks, it would help if their wearers bent their heads a little to
hide their faces.
Also in line to charm the birds from the boughs
with their Little People dance are the green-suited and
top-hatted Leprechauns. And there is an amusing ultra-violet sequence on
a blacked-out stage – all skeletons and heeby-jeebies. But it loses
marks because the black-clad cast members involved are unnecessarily
visible when they get in front of those three large luminous caskets.
Solution: put the caskets downstage, so that the bony bunch do their
stuff behind them.
So there's plenty going on for a company equipped to make the most of it. Laura Hawkins and Claire Ford-Terry and are in amusing form as Stampit, the council official, and Klampit, the traffic warden – who has a yellow band round her hat so that nobody will park on it. And there are happy contributions from Ellie-May Murphy, who gives us Queen Cupcake with an infectious grin, and Adam Brown (Prince Rupert), who has a pleasing duet with Georgia Towler's Suzie.
It's a pleasure to watch and a credit to everyone involved. To 4-12-10