Alban Arena, St Albans
20 December 2008 (Matinee)
Rock on boys! We're having a ball!
To be honest, I wasn’t full of hope about this panto, but I was really very pleasantly surprised.
Cannon and Ball never really made me laugh in the 70s and 80s, when I pretty much laughed at anything. And to prove this, I will admit that I was more a Little and Large girl!
But to be fair, I did laugh at them in this, mainly because their years of stage experience and working an audience really showed. They have an enthusiasm that ripples through to the audience, their sense of silliness is a sublime tonic for a credit crunch Christmas and their skill at audience interaction is honed and polished.
The biggest laughs in panto seem to come when it looks like things have gone wrong. People in panto know this and as a result the “going wrong” is all meticulously rehearsed. If this was the case for this show, then the mistakes looked so realistic that I heartily congratulate the rehearsal process! Cannon and Ball played up to them gloriously and had the whole audience in the palm of their hands. Rehearsed or not, this is what it’s all about!
Thankfully, the rest of the cast do not flounder in their wake. Barry Hester is a excellent Dame Trot and there are good solid performances throughout, including Ricky K as Jack and an effervescent Karen Jeffs as Fairy Courgette.
My only criticism was having the Mr Bean character which seemed entirely superfluous to the whole plot and a completely pointless addition to the cast. If the producers added him in because they were worried that Cannon and Ball were the only “names” in the cast, then their fears were foundless!
The past few years of panto at the Arena have been fairly dire as a string of TV stars have been sent in to get bums on seats. Cannon and Ball really showed them up and are testament to the fact that experience does count for something – thank goodness!