I have to admit that almost none of my notes survived Potted Panto’s very concise 80 minute Sunday show. Due to some very foggy encounters with cascades of dry ice, and some admittedly selfish shielding from a water gun, my notebook is an illegible, soggy mess of Christmas fun. Far from taking away from my enjoyment of the show, I found myself dropping my pen to clap wildly along with everyone else at this clever Christmas corker of a show.
Dan Clarkson, one half of Potted Panto, leaps off the stage and sets the tone before the house lights even go down, shaking everyone’s hand in the audience, stealing sweets and being charmingly capricious. A simple thing, but talking and building a rapport with the stalls gave the rest of the production, particularly the audience participation heavy sequences, some lovely intimacy and eagerness. His comedy partner Jeff plays sensible cop to Dan’s infantile, loveable foil, in a finely balanced play-off that avoids the pitfalls of predictability throughout.
Ambitiously following 6 traditional storylines in sequence, and with plenty of the inbetween slapstick, disagreement and lofty meta-jokes that have become hallmarks of Potted shows, Dan and Jeff carry the whole cast between them, playing every pantomime character you could imagine (and a few you can’t). Pulling narratives back to their essential parts keeps the show rollicking along, and it’s clear that the writers’ focus is pulled more towards Dan and Jeff’s relationship outside of this structure.
In terms of audience, this is definitely one to beg, borrow or steal a child for. There are some great adult pantos around this season, and whilst Dan and Jeff certainly don’t forget that deliciously darker level of humour that has their panto dame moonlighting as a burlesque dancer, or reincarnates Dick Whittington as a certain Foreign Minister, this panto’s focus is firmly on the family market.
The set, costumes and storylines might all be stripped back to the leanest the panto genre can allow, but the wit, mirth and joyfulness that really typify the best examples out there are present in abundance. The production’s innovative spin on a format that normally thrives on classical tradition will ruin every other panto out there for you – definitely one to revisit year after year.
Potted Panto will continue its run at The Garrick Theatre until Sunday 15 January. Performances are at 1pm and 4pm every Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and 11am on Saturdays. You can buy tickets from their box office or online.
CAST AND CREATIVES
Cast – Daniel Clarkson, Jefferson Turner, Paul Aitchinson and Joanna Bool
Understudies – Liam Jeavons, Max Wilson
Director and Co-Writer – Richard Hurst
Associate Director – Jon Brittain
Producer – James Seabright
Executive Producer – Martin Clarkson
Associate Producers – Daniel Clarkson, Jefferson Turner
Lighting Designer – Tim Mascall
Set Designer – Simon Scullion
Costume Designer – Nicky Bunch
Sound Designer – Tom Lishman
Composer – Phil Innes
Company Stage Manager – John Pemberton
Head of Sound – Ben Giller
Acting Assistant Stage Managers – Paul Aitchinson, Joanna Bool
General Management – Seabright Productions