Players' Theatre, London WC2
Opened 12 December, 1990

If you're not in the mood for traditional panto, you might be interested in this, erhm, traditional panto dating from 1837 and staged with period authenticity as per the Players' policy, even to the music-hall singalongs before the main show and the loyal toast to Her Majesty, Queen Victoria (God bless her). It's clubbier than most club theatres, with a high proportion of devotees in the audience out for their periodic fix of genteel bourgeois camp, but the show itself proves that there was life before the Donald McGillery of panto as we know it.

Sheila Bernette mews, preens and caterwauls her way through the title role and "music composed by Bach, Donizetti, Gay, Handel etc." kitted (ouch!) out in daft new libretti with often unspeakably silly rhymes. A chorus of concupiscent ladies-in-waiting, eager for a bit of Puss's tail, wail (politely, Victorianly) in such a way as to leave in no doubt at all what they're in waiting for, and the great Irish ogre Killmany O'Gobble Killmore thankfully sounds nothing like either Terry Wogan or Frank Carson. Probably too much of an acquired taste for children, but worth bearing in mind if you're curious about (or nostalgic for) the days when you were lucky to get an orange, a thruppenny bit and a piece of string at Christmas.

Written for City Limits magazine.

Copyright Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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