Pantomine is part of our Christmas tradition in England, but explaining panto to friends from overseas is difficult. You start with a well-know story such as Cinderella. Cinders is played by a female actor. The fairy godmother is also played by a female actor. So far, so good. The Ugly Sisters are played by male actors - oh. Prince Charming, the principal boy, is played by a female actor. Confused? And then there is the humour, usually slapstick with a level of double entendre. Plus audience participation, "It's behind you", "Oh no it isn't", "Oh yes it is". It's one of those traditions that always gets me into the spirit of Christmas.
So an all new Drag version of Dick Whittington pushes those levels of strangeness even further. Some are very traditional, Dame Sarah 'Can't Cook, Won't Cook, of the culinary café' is played by a man. But Dick is played by a man in drag pretending to be a woman pretending to be a man. It also featured a couple of 'Drag Kings' playing the friendly local sex shop owner and The Mayor of Soho. Beau Jangles had a great voice, and was one of the few cast members not 'lip synching for their lives'.
We joined Dick and his trusty cat in their effort to find fame and fortune on the streets of Soho. Dick has to defeat the villainous rodent Queen Rat, save the city and find true love with the 'gorgeous' Alice.
We absolutely loved the character of the cat, Cat Slater with a C. (for our overseas readers Kat Slater is a character in a soap opera). Elektra Fence played this with enormous humour and not inconsiderable dancing talent. I'm not that the costume is going to make it until the end of the run though - I hope they have spares!
Ensemble Member number 4 played by Ophelia Love provided many moments of comedy joy as the understudy hoping that the lead catches Covid, and who over-acts fabulously in every scene in an attempt to be noticed.
There were some moments of comedy brilliance; as the Spirits of Soho's magical powers only work in WC2; so she transformed into Gemma Collins when on board the doomed boat. (For our overseas readers GC is a reality TV show persona).
Before the show we decided to run a sweepstake of how many mentions of 'pussy' and 'dick' could be packed in. We failed to keep up!
Created by Tuck Shop, the UK's only drag specialist production company, the all drag panto features many of the stars of Ru Paul's Drag Race:
Cheryl Hole as Dick
Elektra Fence as Cat
Karen from Finance as Alice (star of the Down Under Drag Race)
Richard Energy as Daddy
Kitty Scott Claus as the Spirit of Soho
Choriza May as Queen Rat
Beau Jangles as the Mayor of Soho
Ysree Black as Dame Sarah (I may adopt that title myself!)
Ophelia Love as Ensemble number 4
This show isn't polished perfection, (the Rat Queen's dress didn't fit properly - a nipple escaped from time to time!) but we could tell that the cast were having as much fun as the audience. It really lifted our spirits on a miserable December evening. It has a huge thumbs up from us – and to quote Ru Pauls term of endearment ‘Shantay you Stay!’
There are only 5 performances of this unique pantomine, and we were lucky enough to attend the opening night. The rest of the performances are on the following dates:
Sundays 12th and 19th December 2021 - there are 2 performances on the 19th, at 15:00 and 19:00
Tuesdays 4th and 9th January 2022 evening performances only.
Please note that due to the adult content it is advised that the audience is aged 14+
It's on at the Phoenix Theatre
Charing Cross Road London WC2H 0JP
Tickets are priced from £25 to £60.
Telephone Bookings: 03330 096 690