Potted Panto at Wilton's Music Hall | Review of the festive favourite back in London
review star review star review star review half star review blank star

Potted Panto at Wilton's Music Hall

Review of the festive favourite back in London

Potted Panto is a serious academic study of the evolution of pantomime from its roots in the commedia dell’arte tradition to the modern day.

Oh no, it isn’t!

It’s a daft, juvenile romp through six or seven pantos, depending on your definition, with Dan Clarkson and Jeff Turner throwing themselves into all the nonsense and set-pieces the format demands. Plus, they are adding a few new – but still corny – gags of their own.

The condensed ethos of the format allows them only to cover the high points of the stories we know so well. And the low-budget, two-person (-ish) constraints allow for plenty of ‘…goes wrong’ style mix-ups. So we get the moose that laid the golden egg, a chickeny Fairy Godmother and some low-rent ventriloquism, all delivered at an unflaggingly manic pace.

For all the slickly pseudo-chaotic embellishments, the pair remain faithful to the spirit of the form they are celebrating, from cheesy puns to well-signposted slapstick to audience participation. You really do have to yield to the childish spirit of it all to get the most benefit.

Even with the requisite double entendres – little more than over-emphasising the first word of Dick Whittington, for example – the show is very family-friendly. So it was a surprise to see notably few children in Wilton’s Music Hall on this school night. However, more than enough adults threw themselves into the required call-and-response to compensate.

If there’s something of the forced bonhomie of the children’s entertainer about Clarkson and Turner – and that’s really only to be expected – it’s only a matter of minutes before you succumb. Their endless good cheer defies cynicism – and the fact they’ve been doing this show for 13 years proves it works.

Clarkson and Turner follow the usual double-act dynamic. Turner, nominally the sensible one, pushing the show forward; Clarkson, the easily distracted, sillier one, bickering as he takes all the supporting roles to his partner’s relatively sincere principal boys. He has a good line in the goofy grin of the naive idiot who doesn’t know what he’s doing wrong, But of course it’s Turner’s ‘adult’ authority figure who usually comes a cropper.

Typical is Clarkson’s naive, wondrous delight at finding the audience are not booing him but the fine character work he’s doing playing a villain. No one for a single moment believes this, of course, but he sells it so hard and with such goodwill it would be churlish not to indulge him. And that’s the vibe of the whole silly shenanigans.

• Potted Panto is at Wilton’s Music Hall, London, until December 30.

Review date: 7 Dec 2023
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Wilton's Music Hall

Live comedy picks

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.