BWW Review: KING TUT A PYRAMID PANTOMIME, King's Head Theatre
For an eleventh panto, the Charles Court Opera Company bring their unique blend of operatic voices, crazy plots and really, really bad jokes back to the King's Head for a last run round the old sweatbox before things go purpose-built and Islington-chic in 2018. They've splashed out thousands of
pounds pennies on the scenery too and some of the costumes look authentically Egyptian... okay, Egyptian cotton. Well, it's all part of the fun after all, isn't it boys and girls?
We're in khaki jodhpurs and braces back in the 1920s, when Howard Carter was "discovering" treasures in the Valley of the Kings and his sponsor, Lord Connivin' (geddit?) was out to spirit the goods from the spirits for personal gain. With the evil peer's ward, Evelyn (Francesca Fenech - fantastically funny), posing as a very well upholstered "man" the better to pursue her paramour, Carter, they travel through a time portal back to the time of King Tut, who, like all sons of the Valleys, speaks in a broad Welsh accent. The Boyo King owns a camel, Clive, who can talk - well, if a burning bush could...
All the cast have a lot of fun, especially when a bit of corpsing kicks in or a line is fluffed and, of course, there's plenty of room for some ad libbing and bantz with the audience. There are some pleasant original songs (by musical director David Eaton) and a lot of pastiche and parody of 80s and 90s poptastic hits (and a bit of the Pokemon theme at one point, if my son is to be believed).
If you've never seen a CCO panto, you'll enjoy its wit and invention and the opportunity to indulge your inner child without having to put up with the really childish stuff that can drag in an orthodox panto. But veterans (like your reviewer) might feel a tad short-changed by the gags being a little more forced than has been the case in the past (how many times can one laugh at inadvertent farting?) and the dropping of the always hilarious cookery scene, food fights and pieings, for an overly-familiar game show format.
In the absence of a Dame, John Savournin's wicked charm is somewhat emasculated, Lord Connivin' too one-dimensional a villain to allow Savournin to go to eleven on the vicious double entendres and biting asides. And he doesn't get to wear a dress - booooooo!!!
Of course, comparing this production to 2013's dazzling Buttons or 2011's tour de force, Beowulf, is unfair and unnecessary - so go along to see the last hurrah in the muggy old backroom and shout "behind you" and "oh no it isn't" as often as you like. There's even some "adults only" shows that might turn the air very blue if that's your bag - but I wouldn't recommend taking your Mummy to those!
Photo William Knight