PETITE BUT PERFECT PANTO. Oh yes it is.
To start with, he’s a real kid: a young goat. Matthew Kellett, a cheery figure with furry chaps, horns and ears poking through his cowboy hat, is the favourite of economically squeezed rancher Buckaroo Dan (Joanna Marie Skillett, a girl) and pally with raunchy twerking 6ft 2 barmaid Nell (John Savournin, a bloke. Panto tradition must be respected). Evil Mumford (Bruce Graham) is out to kill Billy and ruin the ranch, assisted by his rudely named Indian slave Pocabeaver (Nichola Jolley). The Sheriff (Amy J Payne, another female, naturally) is in love with Nelly.
Actually, we all are , by the time she hits her first big number. For this is none of your yowly amplified panto-pop: all of them are opera trained singers: Royal Academy, Guildhall, Northern, D’Oyly Carte, you name it. People have been telling me for years that I ought to see Charles Court Opera at work, and at last I made it.
And frankly, if you want a boutique small-scale panto, this is the classy one. Though the definitive classiness of the singing (snappy lyrics in nicely borrowed tunes ranging from House of the Rising Sun to In The Navy) does not prevent them from spirited pantomimic daftness. Kellett the goat turns out to be a mean tap-dancer, there is an arresting scene where they milk a buffalo (a truly enormous one, heaven knows how they fit it in the tiny wings), Nelly gets to fling dung at us, there’s a pie fight, a singalong, everything you need.
The small children were beside themselves (though it was a bit loud for the year-old baby, these big voices don’t hold back) and the energy, musicality and disciplined daftness had adults whooping and cheering from a Islingtonian-cum-international audience. As for the barbershop quartet of puppet spirit-wolves who resolve the treasure hunt, words fail me. And there is even a fine Budget-week moral when they find it…wealth isn’t everything. Not when it’s cursed. Lovely: no wonder they sell out. Still some tickets though…
Box Office: 020 7704 6665 to 10 Jan