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BWW Reviews: PUSS IN BOOTS, Greenwich Theatre, December 1 2013

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Pantomime is quite unlike any other form of theatre - something for which we can be grateful. But the madcap, fourth wall breaking, bad joke fests are also box office gold, a cash injection at the end of the year that can sustain a theatre - until the kids and the mums and dads roll up again twelve months later. And, lest we forget, it is most kids' first experience of theatre - the gateway drug, if you will. Everyone involved in theatre owes much to this most esoteric of formats.

Panto is at its most traditional at Greenwich Theatre, where Andrew Pollard is back in the heels and lipstick for his ninth year as Dame, writer and director, this time taking on the decidedly tricky Puss in Boots. He, and his trusted band of panto pros, kept a packed house laughing for well over two hours with japes, jests and jokes, plenty of "Behind Yous!", some excruciating pun-packed patter and a sprinkling of well executed songs. If the set creaks a little, if the dancing isn't pinpoint accurate and if the plot has a few holes in it, does it matter? No - because there's another extraordinary costume and slightly risque gag coming up right round the corner.

It's exhausting work for the cast - sometimes for the audience too, as there's so much going on in a complicated tale - so stamina is required from everyone, as well a large dose of empathy for panto's unique culture. Alim Jayda somehow keeps going as the hyperactive eponymous moggie, working especially well with Andonis Anthony who channels the spirit of Alan Rickman (no less) as the Goblin King. Luke Striffler and Kate Malyon make a pretty pair of wannabe lovers, with Ms Malyon's singing a delight and Mr Striffler's corpsing wonderfully winning. Old hand Paul Critoph enjoys a joust or two with the Dame and isn't afraid of a swift ad lib, which always amuses the parents.

With no big name off the telly to stick on the photos or the billboards, Greenwich Theatre's panto survives on the quality of its production alone. Led by the big man in the big dress and the even bigger wig, it delivers exactly what the punters want and, with lots of "That was a great show!" overheard on the stairs leading to the exits, I'm sure that plenty of the audience will be back for Mr Pollard's tenth anniversary next year.

Puss in Boots continues at Greenwich Theatre until 5 January.


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