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REVIEW: Red Riding Hood (Talisman Theatre)

This is Pantoland with its own form of Brexit from the norm.

Without any need for Article 50, it merrily mixes its political puns into a melting pot along with the likes of Bo Peep, Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs.

Writer-director Stephen Duckham has taken tradition by the horns and sent it stampeding in several refreshing new directions. At the same time what are surely seen as the essentials – hissable baddie, lovelorn youth, audience participation – remain intact.

The show’s biggest strength lies in one of the best panto dames you are likely to see. Kenny Robinson is fast, flexible and funny as he skilfully sidesteps the more obvious aspects of the conventional drag act to focus on lively humour, quick repartee and a fine rapport with the audience. Together with Stephen Duckham’s vigorous direction, he ensures an overall entertainment that seldom falters.

Commanding villainy emanates from Amanda Dodd’s wicked Baroness who had evil plans to cut high-speed rail (yes, really) through the little pigs’ homes. Strutting the stage, she is mightily malevolent, if a shade over-emphatic at times.

As for Red Riding Hood herself, with a neatly expanded story line, Nikki Cross once again delivers a performance of fine style and assurance, enhanced by some notable duets with Ashley Clifford. And in the general melee there are Des McCann’s personable policeman, Katie Siggs’s sweet Bo Peep and, of course, the scene-stealing Three Little Pigs.

After a briefly sluggish start, the production quickly finds its feet and Sally Jolliffe’s choreography keeps company movement well controlled and, in the case of a forest dance sequence, darkly evocative.

It’s a show which can effectively please all ages. No call for any referendum here.

Peter McGarry

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