The wonderful world of pantomime
By Ralph McAllister
Jimmy Logan and Stanley Baxter dragged my brother and me into the world of pantomime.
Alhambra Theatre in Glasgow, every Christmas, our gran would treat us to what was a highlight of the year.
That was in forties Scotland.
The cheers that reverberated as these famous dames emerged on their first entrances remain embedded in my memory.
The cheers that greeted Katie (Gavin Rutherford) Pie at the opening night of Peter Pan at Circa this past weekend were no less considerable.
Rightly so, for this distinguished actor has claimed damehood fame with his seventh essay into the world of high camp.
The New Zealand title used to be David Tinkham’s, in his performances for Wellington Repertory in the fifties.
Now Rutherford is the undisputed Queen of this unisex throne.
A wicked Wellington version!
Writers Lorae Parry and Pinky Agnew have fashioned their considerable skills to a version of Barry’s classic which might have him turning in his grave from either mirth or outrage.
Katie Pie is destitute in her Aro Street house, slaving for the Darlings, in their posh Days Bay home.
Get the picture?
Along come wicked Captain (Simon Leary) Hook, his sleazy servant Winston (Jeff Kingsford Smith) Smee, a charmingly energetic Peter (Cary Stackhouse) Pan and a tribe of others.
The plot (ahem) is riddled with local jokes and the audience is kept interested by lots of colourful dancing, singing and audience participation.
I lost the thread early on but it didn’t seem to matter that much.
Watch out for the crocodile!
Musical director Michael Nicholas Williams offers his usual superb arrangements and support, from the wings, though sitting perilously close to the crocodile’s lair.
When Katie Pie invited all those who believe in fairies to come on stage a tsunami of children responded.
I was a little sad that we adults were excluded, as I still remember reacting to Mary. Martin’s invite to help bring Tinkerbell back to life, even if I was sitting watching a black and white television presentation in the sixties ..
I had tears in my eyes then.
This time, with a long wait for a less than appealing fairy, I was secretly hoping she might be given as bait to aforementioned crocodile.
No such luck.
Director Susan Wilson keeps things racing along at a frenetic pace so that much of the dialogue is sacrificed to action.
But, rest assured, my ten year and six year old companions, at their first pantomime, were riveted from opening to closing, and joined the rapturous reception given by the packed audience, to a hugely energetic performance by this talented group.
The season runs until Christmas and returns in January.