King’s Head Theatre, London – until 6 January 2018
Guest reviewer: Laura Thomas
Welcome to the Charles Court Christmas party. Their seasonal panto has achieved legendary status in north London over the last 10 or more years, playing to packed houses, both in its original home at the Rosemary Branch and latterly at the Kings Head. As with previous productions, with King Tut, you can expect a cornucopia of clichés and contrived puns, no entendre is left un-doubled as this fabulously talented company of accomplished operatic performers unbutton their collective corsets and head to the slums for belly laughs galore; think ‘Carry on Dario Fo: The Musical’, and you’re close to the mark.
Savournin and Eaton have a deft touch, the humour never becoming crass, as a party of stiff upper lip archaeologists in 1920’s fall through a time portal to the court of the boy King Tut, the superb Alys Roberts, whose mighty soprano peeps out from the re-purposed pop songs.
There’s a beautifully nuanced romantic sub plot between the nervous and flatulent Carter (Matt RJ Ward) and the capable but frustrated Evelyn (Francesca Fenech).
The real star is the arch-villain Lord Conniving, played in rotation by Savournin and Matthew Kellett, who re-appears as the evil Janear (the name Jafar being owned by a greedy little mouse). He owns the stage whenever he is on it, a winning mixture of knowing camp and malevolent menace.
He becomes frustrated when his dastardly plots are unintentionally foiled by the bumbling Clive the Camel (Philip Lee), his relationship with Roberts’ Tut, a precocious faux-streetwise Welsh brat, is hilarious, touching and has moments of genuine pathos.
But it is the pantomime villain, played by Savournin on press night, who steals the show.
The plot is farcical and ridiculous but also dramatically rounded. The smoke bomb was hilarious.
There are many subtle touches that flash quickly by. And, unlike many adult themed pantomimes, the work is profanity free and lacks any graphic content, although small children may well ask why mummy and daddy are laughing so much when Lord Conniving demands his tentpole be erected and sacks emptied.
The choreography (Tara Randall) is convincingly and comically bad. No mean feat with a company this well-trained, with alumni of Italia Conti, Central, Trinity, the Royal Academy and the RCM. Wow. All this with a live band, an iconic London pub and a running time of a compact two hours which flies by. What’s not to like?
But get booking quickly. Friends of CTP have already struggled to get tickets on chosen nights, and the run seems sure to, once again, sell out.