So, this was an exciting theatre trip, not least because Nathan, Roo and I had jettisoned Eva and left her in the care of a 4-year-old (and her parents). But also because we were seeing Dan and Jeff, of “Potted Potter” fame. I think I mentioned before just how hilarious 2007’s “Potted Potter” was, so when we were offered tickets to “Potted Panto”, I was worried that it wouldn’t hit the same standards. I was also worried that Roo at 4-and-a-half would be too young for it (the recommended age is 5+). But I needn’t have worried on either count. By the interval, my face was hurting from laughing so much and as for Roo? Well, he enjoyed it too.
You see, Reuben is going through what you might call a “toilet humour” phase. It’s pretty standard for boys when they start school, I think. But bodily fluids are the epitome of 4-year-old comedy and “Potted Panto” had plenty of bodily fluid gags to keep him happy. From the beginning, when they discussed their Hundred-Acre Wood idea, “Potted Pooh” with a suitable visual aid, Reuben was overjoyed to find people who seemed to be on his level. When we asked him what his favourite bit was, he said it was the French Fairy Godchicken saying “oui oui” a lot, but he also enjoyed the scene where someone got hit in the face with a custard pie. There was a lot of slapstick alongside the poo and sick gags, which had Roo transfixed.
But there’s so much more to it than that. If you don’t know what “Potted Panto” is, it’s quite simple – 7 pantos in 90 minutes by double act Dan and Jeff , rattled through at breakneck speed, with explanations of panto tradition along the way (yes, there is plenty of opportunity for audience participation). It’s irreverent and hilarious, turning the well-worn stories on their heads, hence the Godchicken. Dan and Jeff take on the majority of the roles themselves, with the Assistant Stage Managers popping up for occasional cameos. That means rapid role-changing and a lot of men in dresses. There’s the kind of banter between the two of them that only comes from years of performing together and it’s that same banter that really makes the show. Especially the description of Jeff overindulging on cocktail sausages at a Christmas party (“it’s a fountain of vomit!”)
There’s a lot that will go over a 4-year-old’s head, like the traditional panto “blue” jokes (e.g. a joke about “being caught by the ghoulies”) and also the pop culture jokes that the show is stuffed with. For instance, Prince Charming is modelled after Lord Flashheart of “Blackadder” but you don’t need to know that to find him funny. And yes, it’s the same Prince Charming for Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella although his date of choice was a balding man from the audience. There’s also a lot of song-quoting, from Jack’s cow telling us that her “milkshake brings all the boys to the yard” to Cinderella’s sisters being “U.G.L.Y” and no, they don’t have no alibi. They ugly.
The humour might be infantile in places, but it never goes too far. It’s entertaining rather than offensive, and even their political satire is very gentle (if a biting take on Westminster is what you’re after, try “The Duck House”, also on at the Vaudeville Theatre). There’s also some comedy violence, which Dan worries might not be suitable for kids, but don’t kids just love over-the-top gore, even when it’s mimed? Mine lapped it up anyway.
I’m not going to say too much for fear of spoilers, but it was just brilliant. So sarcastic, high-energy and charming, even with all the poo. It’s on until 4th Jan at the Vaudeville Theatre, so go and see it while you can!
Disclaimer: I was given free tickets to the show for review purposes. All opinions remain honest and my own.