There comes a point where you can measure your lifetime in rock’n’roll pantomimes. Ten Keast-and-Tuckers. The Playhouse years. The time your crotch got doused in water by a supersoaker-wielding dame…
In the nicest possible way there aren’t too many details in Beauty And The Beast that stick out. Just a riotous, warm fug of colour, song and titters at naughty jokes. Pantomimes don’t tend to change much and despite the up-to-date trappings of Everyman pantos of late – spectacular sets, flirtations with audio/video and a very modern soundtrack – it’s the familiarity of these annual Christmas shows that is their greatest strength. It’s always a bit long, it often seems a little flabbier than years gone by and there are always one or two extraneous hits, but it ain’t broke so they don’t fix it.
Very much like Doctor Who, the rock’n’roll panto is the kids show that adults can enjoy. In fact, looking around, there’s a suspicion that the grown-ups get more out of it than the kids. Yes there’s a love story and a baddie and sugary ballads that children will love, but there are jokes so naughty they may raise eyebrows as much as they crease sides for the parents. Not to mention the dreaded audience participation where someone’s Dad gets hauled up on stage for some ritual humiliation and unsolicited attention from the scariest panto dame on the circuit, Francis Tucker.
Any review of Beauty And The Beast must inevitably alight on the performances of Tucker and his partner-in-crime, Adam Keast. Together they form an irresistibly mischievous double act that bring all the best bits of variety and stand-up to the Everyman stage. They have an ability to bring corny jokes to life with their glances to the audience and their ( frequently successful) attempts to make one another corpse. In fact those moments get the biggest laughs of the night.
If panto is about letting your hair down then the Keast & Tucker moments are an unqualified success. They’re joined here in taking ham to new levels by Tom Connor (above), who is equally absurd, and Lucy Thatcher as the wicked witch, all eye make-up, legs and cackling. The rest of the cast can often be seen laughing as they watch the mayhem unfold. They enjoy the Keast & Tucker double act as much as the audience, but the panto wouldn’t count for much without the team effort.
Watching the cast switch roles and instruments throughout is a lesson in the professionalism on display. It’s a forum that allows them to show off their many talents; a revue where everyone lets their hair down and gives it everything they have in an effort to send everyone home with smiles on their faces. Over almost two months, that’s some feat.
Is a theatre ever a more lovely place than during the festive period? The rock’n’roll panto is just one of many, but it’s the acme of pantomime season; a rollicking two hours where everyone can forget about real life. In 2016 it’s more welcome than ever. Thank you Liverpool Everyman.
Beauty And The Beast
Until 21 January
Images: Robert Day