REVIEW: Humpty Dumpty (Talisman Theatre)
So what makes a good panto?
Traditionalists will argue for colourful dame, hissable villain, pretty princess, knockabout comedy - and a decent story.
But Humpty Dumpty? He fell off a wall - end of story? Not necessarily. Stephen Duckham proves the point with this show which he has written and directed, both to pleasing effect.
It has all the above ingredients but thankfully does not succumb to the current public absorption with cookery programmes. So any fears that Mother Hubbard might be running some tiresome Big Bake-off sessions can be allayed.
In fact, the show is a winner on nearly all counts. While not swamped with high-tech gimmickry, it can boast a mesmerising golden-bird sequence in which two of the principals are flown out of danger. This is quite some design achievement by Wendy Morris, who also provides a nicely spooky jungle setting as well as some rich interiors.
Merrily bringing the plot to life are some spirited performances. Amanda Dodd’s vengeful would-be usurper is as engaging a ‘nasty’ as any panto could wish for, cleverly combining woman’s wiles with mouthy malevolence.
Alistair Jolliffe towers - in every sense - as Mother Hubbard, nicely eschewing old-style Danny La Rue innuendo in favour of likeable humour and the essential masculinity that makes all good dame portrayals work. Nikki Cross is a charming, sweet-voiced and sparky Princess and David Crossfield strikes an imposing cameo as a seedy jungle inhabitant.
Some of the broader comedy moments fail to rise, but the show - unlike so many pantomimes - focuses on fast pace, neat script, great costumes and a song selection which, ranging from 1960s Petula Clark to One Direction, casts a cleverly wide appeal.
Humpty may take his fall, but only in a generally very good cause, which certainly doesn’t leave the Talisman with egg on its face.