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Cameron Scheijde gives his thoughts on PantoSoc’s easter show, a pantomime romp through the world of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Much of the bedrock of pantomime comedy treads that fine dramatic line between deliberate slapstick, often self-deprecating comedy, and slightly awkward sloppiness. Deciding what is the former and what is the latter in PantoSoc’s latest offering is certainly difficult. To give credit where credit is due, though, I laugh a lot throughout the show. Whether this is with, or indeed at the cast, is the issue at hand.

The script is full of old pantomime traditions and forehead-slappingly terrible puns

There are some adept individual performances, and they very much lift the atmosphere in the theatre. Sophy Taylor shines as the White Witch, with a dry deadpan humour that seems to resonate well with the audience. Flora Snelson’s Aslan is similarly entertaining—frustratingly however, the lyrics to her solo song (Muse’s ‘Uprising’) seem to evade her.

The script is full of old pantomime traditions and forehead-slappingly terrible puns—credit must go to writers Joe Sayer and Tim Bustin for crafting such a text. The shining light of this performance is Andrea de Souza as Lampard the Lamp Post. Snuffed out too soon, alas, her brief comedy cameo nevertheless lights up her scenes with character and charm.

But are the audience laughing with the cast or at them? […] it is the inescapable and crucial question at hand

However, the appeal of this show is lost in the plethora of mistakes and simple lack of preparation of the cast and crew. Pantomime is of course meant to be full of ‘mistakes’—Noises Off-esque gags, slapstick etc.—and it is in part these which make watching it oddly enjoyable as a form. Carefully delivered farce and inept performance are very different, however.

Their thrice-yearly horsing around have made PantoSoc stalwarts of Bristol’s dramatic scene

Pantomime is in essence a show of inclusivity, and as a form it can appeal to such a wide age range. Therefore, in the knowledge that the majority of the audience would be students, PantoSoc rightly relax the covenants of mild language or a ban on sexual references. Indeed, there are plenty. PantoSoc put on a kind of enjoyable ‘relaxed’ theatre, not for overthinking or over-interpreting but rather to just kick back and let the laughter flow.

This is corpsing ad absurdum, with some lines having to be attempted several times through uncontrollable fits of giggles and laughter

I do both: while overhearing the cast croning along in the wings, seeing actors struggling to get on and off stage through the dastardly drapes of the Pegg, forgetting choreography or simply reading song lyrics which do appear to have been hastily scribbled on a forearm. Some in the audience are in fits of laughter. The mishaps are a-plenty, and in their own strange, strange way they gesture towards being an enjoyable reminder of the atmosphere pantomime tries to create for audience and performers alike.

There is no doubt that everyone on stage is thoroughly enjoying taking part—which counts for a lot. This is corpsing ad absurdum, with some lines having to be attempted several times through uncontrollable fits of giggles and laughter. When the S Club 7 starts blaring I can only sit back and observe it all: choreography, lyrics, the whole shebang, that seem like they are being learnt right there on the spot. Hilarious, undeniably.

Tickets have sold out, but keep your eyes peeled for on-the-door availability…

But are the audience laughing with the cast or at them? As mentioned at the top of this review, it is the inescapable and crucial question at hand. Understandably this was the first night; and as a performer and director myself I can see why the show was far from ‘polished’. Having to teach such a huge cast lyrics and choreography to the plethora of pop culture anthems featured is a significant task, of course, and for the most part there are no issues—but at university level, should there really be any mistakes?

When the S Club 7 starts blaring I can only sit back and observe it all: choreography, lyrics, the whole shebang […]

Levels of audibility are a major issue: even sat in the front row I struggle to hear performers on stage. However, from what is caught, the characters that galavant onstage are quintessentially panto without a doubt. There are brief appearances from the likes of Jon Snow and Elsa from Frozen—of course. Across the show, however the pace is a little slow; and there are recurring moments when scene transitions must be made slicker.

I, and some of the audience, do laugh throughout the show—PantoSoc’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is therefore not without its merits. It is difficult, however, to forgive the apparent lack of preparation and professionalism that are required to really make pantomime comedy soar. Do not expect a slick, professional or polished performance; but this is nevertheless a laughter-filled few hours.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe runs at the Pegg Theatre until 18th March. Tickets are sold out, but it is worth checking the show’s social media pages in case of cancellations or on the door availability.


What did you think of PantoSoc’s foray into Narnia? Did you agree with our reviewer? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @EpigramArts

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