Peter Pandemic: A 2020 Panto – Long Arms Writing

Review by Artisan Friendly.

A playful reinvention of panto (online). Full of frothy, silly, bubbly energy that bounces along like an inflatable beach ball”.

Pantomime, by its very nature of being a theatrical entertainment which typically involves music, topical jokes, heroes, villains and slapstick comedy, usually relies on audience interaction and participation to jolly along the proceedings.  Regular exchanged intervals of “oh yes, you are”, “oh no, you’re not”, boos, cheers, applause and singalongs punctuate onstage OTT characterisations and thigh slapping humour. So, how does this medium fair when translated to an online production?  In the case of Peter Pandemic: A 2020 Pantomime, quite ably, thank you.

Written and directed by Callam Fellows, who also narrated the action, Peter Pandemic effectively captures many references to living life under CoronaVirus restrictions. With character names such as Nurse Penny Silin, Fairy Furlough and the titular character of Peter, you can see where this is going. The dialogue, action and characters were steeped in pantomime tradition with some excellent one liners, cheesy jokes and contemporary references (“This is a pantomime, not Love Island!”) Plus, of course a poisoned apple and villainous queen. Mr Fellows certainly knows his panto!

What really struck me was the effectiveness of the trim and tight editing (by Scott Gist) of this production. This worked especially well during the “Happy Birthday” section where the action flicked quickly between characters illustrating THAT hand washing routine. This had the effect of keeping the action driving forwards and being lively and fresh. I also enjoyed the rhyming couplets and accompanying offstage SFX and voices. 

The performers were 100% committed to the production. Stand-outs for me were Aiden Dunlop as the fantastically fierce, bountifully bewigged and meticulously made-up Nurse Penny (have you been watching Drag Race, Aiden?) and Alex Dickinson and Jay Russell-Kent as PCs ‘Track’ and ‘Trace’. Their hilarious running gestures, especially within the ‘Benny Hill’ section worked really nicely. The sirens on the helmets also added to the silly merriment.  

Overall, I found this production to be very creative, inventive and fun. During these difficult times when live performances have been outlawed, it’s reassuring to see that there are ways around this and that creative communities can be so resilient. 

I felt that, just as an addition really, it might have been more colourful to have included some painted or projected backdrops to further establish location as the plain white backgrounds felt like a bit of a missed opportunity. Other than this, I’m looking forward to the next production!”

To watch Peter Pandemic: A 2020 Panto in full visit at https://youtu.be/-_TM3ZxqWms

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