Garrick Theatre, London – until 11 January 2021
They’re at it again. And in this dour year, crowned with the financially reckless renaissance of West End theatre, Dan and Jeff – Daniel Clarkson and Jeff Turner – are welcome home to the daytime West End. Their Potted Potter assault on the Rowling canon in 80 minutes got a thumbs up from the actual New York Times, their two-handed Potter absurdism pleased the Rowlingites no end, and long years ago a Christmas-jaded Times critic (me) called an earlier incarnation of this 70-minute lark: “Cheap, cheerful, deafening if you’re surrounded by ten-year-olds, but not dumb.”
It’s actually polished up better in this season of compulsorily half-empty houses and scrupulous virus-bashing. Nor is there any truth in the rumour that panto whooping, shouting and jumping in the seats would be banned in favour of silent hi-fives and the like for our welfare.
There’s a fair bit of audience racket, though it never felt worrying – given the distanced seats and the fact that the noisiest were plainly family bubbles some distance away. The shtick is the same – bossy Jeff, irresponsible Dan, lightning change of costume bits, cracker-jokes and the clever debunking of same, plus a couple of startling extras, puppets and bits of unexpected set to keep it going.
Attempting six panto stories in the time is the idea, while Dan demands A Christmas Carol be included and forces Ebenezer Scrooge onto Abanazar of Aladdin; they bring in ghost-gags, roarings of ‘oh yes it is’, a brief but wicked front row involvement and some very funny new ways of waking Sleeping Beauty. There’s snow, and a songsheet, and just enough Boris-Covid-distancing gags (the pair are a bubble, thank goodness).
And I was charmed to see how hilarious even quite small children find the repeated appearance of Dan’s Hooray-Henry interpretation of Prince Charming, thrilled with himself and bored of princesses.