Piccadilly Theatre, London W1
Opened 13 December, 1991

Cilla Black's return to London panto contains much that makes the genre fun, buried in a welter of all that makes it purgatorial. She enters, and before speaking a word launches into the theme to Surprise Surprise, just in case we've missed the point. The malevolence of Patrick Mower's leering demon rightly turns to embarrassment (wishing his tights would open and swallow him) when he's forced by crass corporate sponsorship to come on accompanied by a 7-foot inflatable Wispa bar.

Tudor Davies makes a pleasingly naughty dame, compensating for his lack of big-name stature, but as director he lets gratuitous set-pieces elbow out all concern for the plot. The entire populace of the kingdom seems to ascend the bleedin' beanstalk, simply to caper merrily in the Giant's lair and sing re-written Chitty Chitty Bang Bang numbers. After bully Blunderbore was dispatched almost as an afterthought at the three-hour mark (this year's other Jack is shorter than the first act here), Cilla returned for a singalong If I Had A Hammer. Disappointed by the weak response, she blurted, "Well, say something." I said goodnight.

Written for City Limits magazine.

Copyright Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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