REVIEW: POTTED PANTO (Garrick Theatre) ★★★★

As the audience files into the Garrick Theatre, the auditorium buzzes with festive cheer. There are seasonal jumpers being paraded through the aisles and children are bouncing in their seats, watching the stage with anticipation. I jovial gentleman leaps from the wings and down the stairs, greeting ticket holders and shaking hands. As he gets halfway through the stalls, a booming voices echoes around the space, beckoning him backstage. It’s time to start. Over the next 80 minutes (give or take), we are whisked away in a flurry of Christmas tradition as comedy duo Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner (or Dan and Jeff to us) take us through every popular pantomime in the repertoire.

Starting with Jack and the Beanstalk, Dan and Jeff make pit stops at each of the fairytale destinations we have come to know and love. Playing almost every role in each of the stories, they hurtle about the stage, swapping costumes and flinging props at one another. Throughout the show, Dan makes frequent pleas to include one of the most celebrated Christmas tales A Christmas Carol but is continually shot down by his more sensible cohort as it is not a pantomime. From the poisoned apple in Snow White to the pumpkin and mice in Cinderella, Jeff makes sure the stories follow the rules of tradition and keeps us all on track as we speed through the collection. However, Dan’s insistence finally comes to a head in the finale as two tales are mashed together in a hilarious crossover.

Potted Panto is a great choice for theatregoers this winter. Whether you’re a regular connoisseur of the West End or a newcomer to the land of theatre, this show has something for everyone. Most importantly, Dan and Jeff provide a perfect amount of subtle jokes that the adults will appreciate as well as the more obvious (but no less enjoyable) pies in the face and sweets that rain down into the open hands of the children. While the cast is essentially the two men, joined briefly by two guest performers, the energy onstage positively sizzles throughout. Dan and Jeff are charming and welcoming and complement one another fantastically and while Dan is wonderfully haphazard and gormless, Jeff is rigid and well behaved.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of Potted Panto comes from the pair explaining the various traditions found in pantomime. Talking us through the inclusion of the dame, the ghost gag and the ‘call and response’ they invite us in to help them through the performance and their carefully choreographed mistakes have the audience cheering and laughing endlessly. Every single one of their jokes is met with roaring laughter and it is a joy to see both men crack up a couple of times as well. A particular high point in the show comes as snow falls from the ceiling and an audible gasp rolls around the audience as they reach for the flakes.

If you’re stuck for choice with which pantomime to see this Christmas, why not see all of them? With each story tucked into a neat 10 minute slot, Potted Panto is fresh, funny and exceptionally festive. A wonderful show for all ages.

Reviewed by Alex Foott

POTTED PANTO plays at the Garrick Theatre until 15 January 2017. Tickets