You know what you’re getting with a pantomime. Puns, slapstick, clichéd gags and a lot of silliness. And when it comes to the Marlowe in Canterbury, you also know that you’re getting Kent’s best of this festive fayre. 2016 is no different, with Evolution, run by husband and wife team Paul Hendy and Emily Wood, and their production of Dick Whittington.
The set design is impressive, and we’re treated to more with 3D glasses and a sense of immersion in the fairytale world. Some magic took place, or at least some very speedy movement and clever set loopholes. And as always the songs and choreography were a blast, led by , and featuring tunes such as Sit Down You’re Rocking The Boat from Guys & Dolls, as well as more up to date .
Gymnast Vladimir Georgievsky as Alderman Fitzwarren was a real highlight, bringing his training and skill from the Moscow State Circus to an impressive slapstick acrobatics routine. Ben Roddy, panto stawlwart, was Dolly the Cook, and as the pantomime dame witty, sharp and managed to keep the adults entertained with his quick engagement and the kids with his hyperbolic exaggeration. He and Stephen Mulhern, playing Billy, seemed to have a great connection, ad-libbing through scenes and having a damn good time doing so. And I loved the sassy fairy played by Lisa Divina Phillip, delivering deadpan lines in her patois accent.
The final routine on why Britain is Great (thing 1966, Shakespeare, and other nostalgia and history) veered on a bit too political and patriotic for my liking, especially in this year of all years. Parts could have been shortened, as they were funny the first time, but dragged on and veered on filler – specifically the sweet shop scene and signs gag – but generally it was pretty well balanced.
Panto is all about fun and frivolity. With their exemplary theatre prowess and skill, the Marlowe and Evolution manage to raise it from slapstick pretence to engaging performance that thrills the whole family. You have got to smile at Christmas. And it starts at the Marlowe.