As a cynical, nihilistic person I never thought I would find myself enjoying a pantomime. A first timer to the pantomime experience, I entered the theatre doors wearily, my head swimming at my connotations of the pantomime as a crass, ridiculous, overacted farce purely for young children. The genius of the Shrewsbury pantomime, or at least this years edition, is directly addressing these miserable spoil sports, such as myself, and aiming many jokes towards the miserable teens and parents dragged along by screaming children. Riddled with innuendos and political/social commentary, the rendition of the well known Aladdin story is appealing to all age groups.
Brad Fitt steals the show, playing Widow Twankey in his ninth successive pantomime at Shrewsbury. The majority of this character's jokes land, some witty writing intertwining perfectly with the trademark comedy of the pantomime. To my surprise, Fitt also directed the pantomime. When later approached he was very kind and down to earth, a sudden juxtaposition after his eccentric role. For him, the most fun scene was the slapstick routine in the laundromat, a fast paced, frothy and colourful experience. What was most surprising to me was the amount of costumes Fitt had to wear, often in quick succession, finishing with 12 in total!
Despite his limited screen time, Eric Smith also shines in his role as the emperor, showcasing his experience through his ability to capture the audience's attention on every entrance.
Finally, Philip Stewart shines in his role as Abanazar, the shows antagonist. Despite my presumptions about the nature of the pantomime Stewart gave a truly memorable performance, balancing his characters comedic and threatening nature. My eyes were constantly drawn towards him and for good reason, his mere reactions to the ridiculous storyline drawing a few chuckles.
Despite the extravagant experience the audience is shown, the backstage activity is just as interesting a topic matter. Despite an 18th month pre opening night process, the final 2 weeks are the sole ones with access to the venue, causing a mass whirlwind of technical rehearsals. Despite this rush, the show resides fondly within each actor’s head, Dec Morgan recalling the experience as “fantastic [x10]”.
As an analytical person a few parts of the pantomime bugged me, various gaping plot holes and ridiculous coincidences being apparent. However, as the evening progressed I found myself drawn into the joyful atmosphere and managed to dim the constant pains the story caused my rational thinking. The pantomime is overall about the spectacle and enjoyment, which is fully delivered by this show, not masquerading as thought provoking high art. This self awareness allowed the pantomime be fresh experience. Whilst not something that will remain in my head, I had a fun afternoon and that was all that needed to be delivered.
In conclusion, the Shrewsbury pantomime is a surprising twist on the genre and is heavily recommended to any pre existing fans of the show, as well as to an unhappy grinch looking for a bit of fun.