The year is 2034 and we start this panto with Time (Leanne Cooney) bringing us up to speed on the quantum X 5000 experiment which saw a group of elite scientists led by Dr Destiny Sinclair (Holly Murphy) and Fate Lewis (Victoria Leopold) looking to develop this top-secret time travel project further.
But things don’t always go according to plan and Destiny soon finds herself in the past suffering from partial amnesia and facing a mirror image that is not her own. With only Fate, in the form of a hologram, and an App (Jess Connor) to guide her, Destiny finds herself leaping through time righting wrongs before landing up in 1706 where she is paired up with Jack (Shaun Herr) of beanstalk fame and his entourage of a family: Dame Velma (Peter Sebastian); Dougal (Johnny Sedgwick-Davies); and Ella (Elisha Curry).
However, being a pantomime, we need some baddies and it’s only a matter of time before quirky scientist Skye McFly (Demi Leigh Wilson) appears with her invention, Fleshcreep (Leo Hewitson). They both work for the evil Dr Reigns (Anna Chan) as do a couple of ‘giants’, Horace (John Ball) and Morris (Louis Cashin-Harris).
So, with a quick shake of the beans and an ensemble support (Alexandra Rochford; Eve Maher; Erin Ackerley; Abi Lunn; Eve Blackwood; and cast), the real question is whether Destiny will find her way back to her own future?
Panto is a unique theatrical experience making this a brave first step for City Theatre and writer/director Barry Levy, but it was a leap that well and truly paid off from the start with the recognisable themes we’ve all come to know and love successfully interweaved around this modern re-telling of a classic fairy tale. With strong audience interaction throughout, we were delivered a treat of singing, acting, and dancing with some superb choreography from Ackerley and cast.
Everyone performed strongly with clever use of Murphy and Wilson as the more accomplished performers to drive things forward. What made this really special was how they both injected their energy and enthusiasm into the cast resulting in several entertaining partnerships coming to the fore: Murphy and Herr served up a budding musical romance, whilst a hyper Wilson and a delightfully deadpan Hewitson were being appropriately evil-ish. Ball and Cashin-Harris have the makings of a good comedy act with their skilful slapstick whilst Sebastian and Sedgwick-Davies delivered some classic panto routines. Leopold and Chan were the perfect opposites of good and bad whilst a serene Cooney calmly kept the peace. Curry demonstrated a bit of everything with a confident performance that bodes well for her future.
Are there things that can be tightened up? Of course there are but who cares: this cast and crew came on a mission to entertain and in that respect this was a resounding success based on the laughter and applause throughout from the audience, and when you can get this reviewer clapping and tapping his feet then you know you’ve nailed it. Oh yeah, and I got to enjoy Murphy singing again too.
What lies at the heart of City Theatre is community and a focus on work that can appeal to anyone and everyone; to produce theatre that will appeal to the very people that reside around the theatrical quarter of Liverpool without perhaps even knowing it; and productions that will encourage them to not only come and watch but to actually get involved. This is real community theatre; it needs no other labels or distractions. Further information is available at https://cityentertainmentgroup.co.uk/
Reviewer: Mark Davoren
Reviewed: 4th December 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★