Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Implausibly large bosoms, garish costumes and hideous wigs. Yes, it’s pantomime, in Edinburgh, in August as Cinderella’s two ugly sisters venture north of the border to seek their Prince Charming.
Pantomime is a quintessentially British institution that guarantees fun for all ages as a loosely defined plot provides the excuse for a bucket load of innuendo, lashings of double entendre and jokes that have been around since man first thought it might be vaguely amusing to don a ridiculous costume and an inappropriate hairpiece.
But it normally only sees the light of day at Christmas so it’s something of a surprise to find a couple of pantomime dames wandering around the rather plush surroundings of one of Edinburgh’s finest hotels in the middle of August. Turns out that these two unlikely lassies are Cinderella’s ugly sisters who’ve come north to find their Prince Charming. Looking like that? In Edinburgh? Fat chance!
But the beauty of panto is its general implausibility. And in the hideous David Kent and the unsightly Dereck Walker, we’ve two pretty implausible beauties. Yet as they sashay back and forth across the stage warming up their audience, I was reminded that what they were doing takes quite a bit of ingenuity and courage as well as the ability to react quickly to the interesting suggestions coming from those being entertained. I well remember the reaction a friend of mine provoked once whilst in full drag at a well-known northern theatre. Vainly trying to ignore the hail of boiled sweets bouncing off his head, he declaimed to those assembled “I bet you don’t know who I am” only for some young tyke to pipe up with “Yes I do, you’re a fat poof!”
No danger of such insults here, though, probably because there was a stream of opportunities inviting the audience to participate, all of which were eagerly accepted. Just about every staple panto trick you could think of was employed – the old “he’s behind you”, “oh no you can’t” gags got an airing, as did the standard “there’s no ghost is there boys and girls” routine and several more.
Our two Uglies whizzed through a number of amusingly crafted songs, got through an amazing number of costume changes (who sews their sequins on, I wonder?) and generally kept the whole thing rolling along. They worked the audience well, were comfortable ad-libbing when required and had just about enough material to fill the hour. They might think about trying to dampen the din that their high heels made on the hard floor but with their implausibly large bosoms, wild wigs, garish costumes and melodramatic delivery, they have an engaging and entertaining act, one that provides an interesting alternative to the usual Fringe fare.