Now it feels like Christmas. The rock’n’roll pantomime really kicks things off for us every year – more than mince pies, M+S adverts or the first hints of this year’s big Eastenders storyline.
But the annual panto is very much an Everyman landmark: those wooden benches and those cramped stalls and the rickety stairs. Yes the Everyman was knackered and a bit crap, but it was certainly loveable; the annual panto like a visit from an old friend.
Walking down Hope Street at the moment and seeing an enormous hole where the old theatre used to be is a genuine shock. It felt like, even though its sister theatre was hosting this year’s panto, it would be impossible to replace the Everyman; the Playhouse just wouldn’t seem right.
At the very point that Adam Keast and Francis Tucker appeared at the top of the Playhouse’s stage, five minutes into Cinderella, that feeling dissipated. By the time they made their way into the audience to dole out merciless dousings to innocent panto watchers it seemed like it had always been thus.
A critical reading of the rock’n’roll panto is rather pointless. Suffice it to say that it is enormous fun and, as Gemma Bodinetz acknowledges afterwards, it all looks rather easy. But we’re in no doubt as to how hard it is to pull off an all-singing, all-dancing, all-playing pantomime like this – and develop a wonderful chemistry between cast members.
All are good and make something interesting of their roles, even if they’re small; needless to say Keast and Tucker are the star acts but Rebecca Bainbridge as Maud MacBeeeth and Jonny Bower in multiple roles push them close.
Could it be better? Well, we’d lose some of the ‘straight’ songs to trim the run-time – well over 2.5 hours – and lose a recurring gag Griffin Stevens is lumbered with that falls so flat that a youngster behind us shouted ‘stop doing it!’.
But we go for the naughty jokes and corpsing and victimisation of hapless audience members; no doubt other people go for the songs and dancing. Fair’s fair.
Whatever they go for, people do keep going; whether it’s at the Everyman or the Playhouse. The venue doesn’t really matter nor, to an extent, does the play. That the rock’n’roll panto is back is what matters. And, also, that it’s Christmas again in Liverpool.