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The Nativity Panto at The King’s Head Theatre | Review

LtoR Emily Cairns, Matthew Kellett & Meriel Cunningham in THE NATIVITY PANTO. Credit Bill Knight.
LtoR Emily Cairns, Matthew Kellett & Meriel Cunningham in THE NATIVITY PANTO. Credit Bill Knight.

One of the highlights of the festive season is the annual trip to Islington to the King’s Head Theatre for the latest Charles Court Opera Christmas production. This year, CCO present their thirteenth festive boutique pantomime and have decided to pull out all the stops by tackling the story that started it all with The Nativity Panto.

I’m not going to go into too much detail but the story concerns a couple – Joseph (Matthew Kellett) and Mary (Meriel Cunningham) Christmas, who have slightly different goals in life. Joseph is trying to invent a substance that will get his sleigh, pulled by Rudolph the reindeer (Emily Cairns), to fly and Mary wants a baby.

It sounds simple enough, but, in the hands of John Savournin (director and scriptwriter) and David Eaton (original songs and Musical Director), a simple tale becomes something spectacular. The addition of a good old pantomime villain – in the shapely form of ‘Jack Frost’ (Jennie Jacobs) along with dastardly sidekick ‘Snowflake’ (Catrine Kirkman) – and three distinctly non-biblical wise men looking for the King of the Elves make for a highly enjoyable couple of hours.

As you would expect, all the traditional pantomime elements are there. Cross-dressing, audience participation, a daft game and that absolute necessity, the singalong at the end, complete with competition, easily won by my side of the room.

Rachel Szmukler’s snow covered set, including a raised level for drummer Dave Jennings makes impressive use of the limited space on the King’s Head stage. Mia Wallden and Catrin Short Thyrsson costumes really feel appropriate and work well in identifying all the characters and their personalities – particularly in the case of the three kings and Jack Frost – where you know what they are like before they utter their first word.

Impressively, there are three different versions of the show – Family friendly where under 5’s go free on laps, All Ages, and Adults only – which must be exhausting for the five strong cast to learn and put on. In fact, I’m guessing understudy Laura Porter is hoping that everyone turns up every day of the forty performance run. We are talking one multi-talented cast who really give their all to the production. They act, they sing, they dance (thanks to Choreographer Damian Czarnecki), they even fly.

As is usually the case with Charles Court Opera productions, it is very difficult to find anything to fault and, in fact, there were some elements that were quite amazing. David Eaton really has a knack for taking well known songs and changing enough words to make them completely different, but keeping to the theme or spirit of the original. Two in particular instantly spring to mind – A-ha’s ‘Take on Me’ and the Spice Girls ‘Wannabe’ – both of which appeared in the production and sat perfectly in their part of the story. I also really loved the ‘subliminal’ advertising, complete with catchy jingles, which left me thinking I really needed to buy someone a mug, tee-towel and DVD for Christmas.

Well, there you have it. Once more Charles Court Opera have been weighed, been measured, and you have been found to be absolutely outstanding at putting on a truly awesome Christmas show. The only problem is, they have set the bar so high this year, what on earth will they do for 2020? I can’t wait to find out.

5 Star Rating

Review by Terry Eastham

Charles Court Opera return with their thirteenth gloriously festive boutique pantomime. This year, they’ve taken the story that sparked the season and sprinkled it with a generous helping of magic, whimsy and Christmas cheer to create their most joyous show yet.

Join a cast of well known characters in this respectful yet irreverent spin on the nativity for a miraculous mix of jaw-dropping musical numbers, laugh-out-loud puns and – as always – the entirely unexpected!

From adult only performances to young children’s matinees, The Nativity Panto is perfect for families, couples, groups of friends and office parties. Don’t miss this legendary London Christmas show, which will fill you with Myrr-th into the New Year and beyond!

Jennie Jacobs – Christmas Carol / Jack Frost
Matthew Kellett – Joseph / King Key
Meriel Cunningham – Mary
Emily Cairns – Rudolph / King Size
Catrine Kirkman – Snowflake / Holly Spirit / King Pin

Director / Script / CCO Artistic Director JOHN SAVOURNIN
CCO Musical Director / Arrangements / Lyrics DAVID EATON
Lighting Designer BEN PICKERSGILL

The Nativity Panto
29 November 2019 – 11 January 2020


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