REVIEWS: Pantomimes and fable favourite delight crowds

Martin Barrass as Mankee Twankey and Berwick Kaler as Widow Twankey in Aladdin and the Twankeys. Picture: Robert Day
Martin Barrass as Mankee Twankey and Berwick Kaler as Widow Twankey in Aladdin and the Twankeys. Picture: Robert Day

What we’ve been watching this week


The Boy who Cried Wolf, Sheffield Studio Theatre

Story-teller Mike Kenny gives a new twist to the old legend of the Boy Who Cried Wolf in this producion, and makes it almost contemporary.

We are somewhere in Scandinavia, and old Grandfather is getting a few aches and anno Domini pains, so it falls to his grandson Silas, a rather moody and petulant boy, to be sent out to keep an eye on the family sheep in his stead. Silas, to enliven the dullness of the upper slopes, cries “Wolf”, and the villagers believe the lad. At first. And then, of course, their faith in him begins to ebb away, when he tries the lark on once more. Since this engaging little entertainment is aimed at a younger audience, Kenny doesn’t carry through to the conclusion of the original – that the boy ends up being eaten by the wolf-pack.

But he does offer a moral to his plot, and that is, quite simply, that one would be far off better telling the truth, even if that does inevitably lead to verbal chastisement. Director Wendy Harris asks her three players, Matthew Hamper, Sally Ann Staunton and Thomas Edward-Bennett, to play all the human characters, as well as impersonating the sheep, and implying the threat of the dastardly wolves. There’s dance, mime, music, and a lively score from Dominic Sales. Kelly Jago offers us a multi-purpose set that can, with ease, be the cosy home of Silas and his elders, or the lower slopes of the nearby mountain.

Kenny’s clever way with young audiences keeps their attention fully on the action every moment of the way.It helps that the entire show runs for just under an hour, so there is absolutely no opportunity for impatient wriggly-bottoms to develop. Indeed, as an introduction to the theatre and its conventions (although Tutrti Frutti are in no way or sense conventional) it simply can’t be bettered. It’s colourful, beautifully paced, and performed with a sincerity that doesn’t patronise its audience. And it certainly gets the imaginative juices flowing. Mr. Kenny, in short, has pulled it out of the bag once more.

By Phil Penfold


Aladdin and The Twankeys - York Theatre Royal

Christmas just isn’t Christmas without a trip to the panto and the cast at York Theatre Royal did not disappoint again this year - continuing the festive cheer well into January! Such is the success of the annual show that it runs into February to packed auditoriums.

For myself, and 11-year-old daughter, this was our eighth trip to see veteran dame Berwick Kaler (Widow Twankey) in action and we laughed from start to finish.

This is a panto like no other - yes it has superb sets, sparkle, slapstick, romance, a baddie and audience participation - but how it differs from others I have seen is that the actors make you feel like a member of the family.

The involvement of the whole theatre only helps to enhance the hilarity of the obvious adlibbing, constant corpsing and in-jokes. it just wouldn’t be the same without it.

This year’s plot tells the tale of Aladdin (Al Braatz) who is recruited by the evil Abanazar (Jonathan Race) to retrieve a magical lamp. The story unfolds thanks to the madcap actions of Aladdin’s “twin” brother Mankee Twankey (Martin Barrass), his love interest Princess Peke-a-Boo (Suzy Cooper), the Empress of all China (Sian Howard) and Genie of the Bling (AJ Powell).

In usual Theatre Royal fashion there is an hilarious water scene at Widow Twankey’s laundry, plus a video with an appearance by TV’s Harry Gration in his annual cameo role - this year sporting a fetching American cop outfit as he played part of The Village People.

This panto never fails and if you haven’t been before, you must.

The show goes on until Saturday, February 1, contact the box office on 01904 623568.

By Stephanie Bateman

Television DVDs

Mad dogs series 4 (15)

Max Beesley, Philip Glenister, John Simm and Marc Warren get into more hot water in the fourth series of the acclaimed Sky 1 drama. Baxter (Simm), Rick (Warren), Woody (Beesley) and Quinn (Glenister) reunite to celebrate the impending nuptials of Baxter’s beloved daughter. It’s clear that none of the quartet is particularly content so when Rick reveals his hare-brained scheme to net a cool two million euros, the temptation to stray proves too great. A four-disc box set comprising all four series is also available.

Parks and Recreation series 4 (12)Four disc box set of 22 episodes from the Emmy-nominated sitcom, which has been delighting viewers on BBC Four. This series, well-meaning bureaucrat Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) is poised to run for office in the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana, but her relationship with Ben (Adam Scott) clouds her judgment. Later, wealthy local Bobby Newport (Paul Rudd) enters the race for City Council and Chris (Rob Lowe) and Ron (Nick Offerman) search for inner calm at a meditation centre in the eye of an election storm.