Kate Kennedy Pantomime: Five Discover Each Other
Dir. Christy White-Spunner
Venue 1, Thursday 6th December
Silly, yet distinctly unfestive, this year’s Kate Kennedy Christmas pantomime re-envisions the Famous Five, still twelve years old, taking down drug barons and other crime lords in the here and now. When their recently incarcerated arch-rival, Vendito Manus (Casey Larson), escapes and steals Enid Blyton’s typewriter, the gang must crack the case before being re-written into disaster.
Director and Writer, Christy White-Spunner presents us with what is overall a well-written show with a compelling premise. There were many excellent one-liners, and the musical numbers were both imaginative and hilarious. It is a shame that it is let down by sloppy performances and aimless direction.
Though most of the Five themselves delivered adequate, if not mind-melting performances, the quality of their support was close to shoddy. An evidently vibrant script was buried by flat delivery and poorly-observed comic timing.
Equally as flat was the blocking. White-Spunner is a veritable Superman for writing, directing, producing and starring in the show – but he clearly spread himself too thinly to do each of these roles justice. Blocking was reduced to standing in a row, delivering lines. The characters rarely engaged with each other or tried to gain a rapport with the audience, perhaps hoping that they would be carried by the strength of the script.
Particularly cringe-worthy were the several unwelcome instances of various characters hurling sweets into the crowd: a key pantomime trope, but executed with no care for incorporation into the plot, jarring any sense of flow. So, too, with the much hyped ‘dance routine’ – after many promises of a grand dance number from mute Anne (Edward Battle), I was geared up for a spectacle. What I got, however, was a bit of – albeit committed – flailing. It was disappointing and a tad embarrassing.
On occasion I warmed to the the show, but it could never tighten its grip or keep hold. Just as it started to build momentum, it delivered the crushing blow of a ‘happy birthday’ interlude. Though no doubt a lovely gesture to the people it was directed towards, this was irreversibly alienating, shutting the vast majority of the audience out in the cold while a private joke was shared.
The band, on the other hand, was excellent – if sometimes overpowering – and deserves special praise. Certain ‘set pieces’ such as Manus’ control of the characters via typewriter, Timmy (White-Spunner) the dog’s ‘big reveal’, and an Other Guys cameo set a standard of what the show could have been.
A critic for The Stand has asserted that this was ‘one of the funniest things’ she had seen in St Andrews. While I respect her opinion, I believe it was unfair to a great many comic productions of sterling quality that have been staged in recent times. The lads of the KK could have got much more out of the excellent show that they were working with and it would be equally unfair to assume this is the peak of their potential. As it was, however, I most certainly did not leave with a smile on my face.
- This article was amended on December 11, 2012 to correct the name of the production