Edinburgh Fringe 2010
From the creators of ‘Potted Potter’ and ‘Potted Pirates’, this years offering, ‘Potted Panto’ sees CBBC’s Dan and Jeff present us with seven classic pantomimes, in just 70 minutes. Using a few choice props and pieces of costume, some puppetry and a lot of silliness, Dan and Jeff take both children and adults alike on a wonderful journey through this great British tradition.
Potted Panto’s promise to ‘cram all the classic pantomimes into just 70 minutes’ sounds a bit too ambitious, as Dan and Jeff present ‘their most extravagant show yet’. However, they do not fail to deliver on that promise! From the very beginning, which sees Dan and Jeff debating which of the classic British pantos ought to qualify as ‘favourites’ (Jack and the Beanstalk beating Das Boot), to the brilliantly bonkers finale, these two talented performers take on almost every role themselves, with seemingly endless amounts of energy and charm.
Each of the many characters we meet are fully rounded and detailed, with the performances totally committed and varied. The use of design enhances these already funny creations, using everything from a simple change of waistcoat, to half a pantomime cow outfit, to a full chicken costume. The design is also very impressive with regards to the set. At first glance it seems simple but of a high standard, with a lecturn, the suggestion of a proscenium arch and a raised box, in bright primary colours. However, as the show progressses, a couple of surprises are to be had, and by the finale the stage has been transformed into something which is again simple, but very effective visually, although I am not about to give too much away! Sound and lighting cues are perfect and tight, yet still managing to create a spontaneous feel at certain points, which again adds to the performances, helping them to be natural and believable, no matter how silly. The narrative is extremely well constructed, each story full of vibrant detail and never feeling too rushed, despite the whole point being that each one is given no longer than ten minutes in total. The writing is extremely intelligent, combining political comments with toilet jokes. There is just enough rudeness to make the kids giggle without offending the adults. The great British tradition of the pantomime is both deconstructed and celebrated, with added modern references, such as to the current fashion for 3-D (again I’m not going to give too much away here!).
I thoroughly enjoyed this show, and was clearly not alone. The way the attentions of both the children and the adults were commanded throughout the entire duration was extraordinary. There was a moment about three-quarters of the way through when I noticed a child wriggle and talk, normally something by which one is unavoidably surrounded by at kids shows, obvious only because of the total absence of this from any child until that point. They were all mesmerised, bolt upright and leaning forward, with massive smiles on their faces. As were most of the adults. They seemed to enjoy the childish, silly moments just as much as the bits that were aimed squarely at them (such as the reference to Boris Johnson in Dick Whittington for example). There was plenty of audience interaction and participation, to the delight of all and embarrassment of some. One woman on the front row for example, who thought she could get away with texting on her phone, not only was made a hilarious example of, but was then referred back to during a song later on, much to the amusement of her children and indeed the rest of us.
I can think of nothing in this show which I feel could be improved on, in terms of performance, writing or staging. If you have kids and can only see one show during the Fringe, make sure that this is it. If like me, you don’t have kids, but appreciate high theatrical standards and want to leave a show with your jaw physically aching from laughing and smiling – go and see it too!