From time to time the showbusiness columns, whether in print or online or both, will have a juicy story about backstage shenanigans, or perhaps an actor losing their temper and getting irate at someone in the audience messaging an acquaintance on their mobile phone. Or perhaps somebody considered by certain columnists to be well-known enough to be singled out in coverage about a show ‘dries up’ and can’t recall their lines. But what if someone really oversteps the line, finds themselves saying something so incredibly out of order, in public, that their agent rings up pretty much as soon as they find out and ‘drops’ them.
Despite a clash of personalities apparently known to enough people working on a pantomime production of ‘Cinderella’, and a request by Mr Chancery (Luke Adamson) – for some reason it’s last names only for these characters – to be given a separate dressing room to Mr Worth (Robbie Capaldi), they must share a dressing room for the panto season. It’s a painful experience for both parties, especially as simmering tensions find their way onto the stage – or do they? It’s never quite clear, given that the duo play the panto title character’s ‘ugly sisters’, whether there is in-character sibling rivalry going on or if there is a ‘real’ (as it were) argument in progress.
Oh No It Isn’t, aside from being a good opportunity to present selected scenes from a panto irrespective of the season in which the play is performed, including costumes in all their colourful glory, provides an insight into how the show must go on. It is ‘an’ insight – that is, it never claims to be the definitive guide to what happens in a shared dressing room; other performers will have wildly different experiences.
Some of the punchlines, whether ‘on’ or ‘off’ stage (the dressing room chairs and tables are downstage left and right, and the panto stage is upstage, if you can envision it) are rather inappropriate for an actual panto. No matter – the publicity for the show is quite clear it is not suitable for children. But the strength of the script is not just in put-downs and tongue twisters: there are healthy doses of observations about the entertainment industry and its ruthlessness. I liked a running theme about scenes and dialogue that could be revisited and revised but are trotted out year after year at the panto simply because it’s not a proverbial train smash.
Late on in proceedings, there’s a wry remark about ticket prices becoming too steep. Ticket sales for this particular panto were apparently down slightly on previous years, though I personally suspect profit margins may have been slightly higher on account of the increased prices. Much of the rest of the audience liked an aside about a bottle of red wine from Aldi that “goes well with red meats and cheeses” – is the phrase well associated with Aldi’s own brand wine range? (I genuinely don’t know.) The brief performance was both entertaining and insightful, energetic and a tad exhausting to watch. It had my full attention from beginning to end. I haven’t laughed so much in a single show for quite some time. An excellent production.
Review by Chris Omaweng
oh no it isn’t!
writer: LUKE ADAMSON director: KENNEDY BLOOMER & TOBY HAMPTON
13 – 14 May
They’re the best of sisters onstage but the worst of friends off it.
It’s the final performance of Cinderella in a moth-eaten, regional theatre and backstage tensions threaten to boil over onstage.
Will the egotism, oneupmanship and sexual politics remain confined to the dressing room?
Will the ugly sisters keep the professional professional and the personal personal?
Will we ever find out what happened during Babes In The Wood?
Based on a lifetime of experience onstage and backstage OH NO IT ISN’T is a hilariously funny and beautifully moving new play exploring the highs and lows of life in the theatre.
Using real anecdotes and stories it is an impassioned yet tender love letter to the world of performance.
207 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 1RL