Oh yes it is!....
Ropetackle Arts Centre
Live theatre has taken a real hit this year and pantomimes throughout the UK in particular have been decimated by the constantly shifting restrictions and tiers. Luckily, some 40 odd live shows are still on offer and the wonderful little arts centre in Shoreham, Ropetackle Arts, has managed to offer the local community some Christmas cheer in 2020. Oh yes it is! is LP Creatives' socially distanced family adventure, a 90-minute performance with lockdown jokes, plenty of theatrical smoke and more costume changes than one might have thought possible with 3 performers.
Oh yes it is! is seemingly a collation of all of the pantos that LP Creatives have been producing over the previous eight years at the Ropetackle. The characters move from Dick Whittington to Aladdin, from Widow Twanky to Nanny Fanny and in the blink of any eye the plot seems to have lurched in another direction. In fact, Joe Meloy, the excellent pantomime dame in this production, comments that they, the cast, struggle to work out what the story is in this performance.
It's as if all concerns about any kind of narrative got thrown out the window in the early days and the director Tom Beard decided instead to focus purely on producing some fun for the audience. He succeeds with this aim and the lack of a story is more than made up for with the terrible jokes, audience participation and catchy music.
The aforementioned Joe Meloy is the glue that holds the pieces together; his is a terrific performance. As the panto Dame, he is excellent in weaving in topical lockdown jokes into the show as well as picking an unsuspecting member of the audience to become Widow Twanky’s ‘boyfriend’. This interplay with the spectators is a real delight, particularly as this year, contact between performers and audience members has to be minimised. Meloy controls this beautifully and you could feel the audience reveling in every interaction between performer and audience sidekick. The costumes worn by the dame are brilliant, culminating in a white wedding dress which almost steals the show in the finale.
Meloy is ably assisted by Grace Holroyd as the female heroine who is the most natural singer in this particular cast, a sweet sounding, tuneful contributor to the musical numbers. Her turn as the common sounding genie is a little surreal but there is definitely an attempt to differentiate between each character.
The cast is completed by Oliver Byng as the loveable Buttons. This is a workmanlike performance, with the character seemingly never off stage. Once again, there is lots of connection between Byng and the audience and Buttons seemed to delight the younger members of the audience in particular.
All the ingredients are here, whether this be the pop songs with changed lyrics to make (some) connection to the story and characters or the snow raining down from the theatre sky towards the end of the show. The costumes and backdrops are colourful, the script has lots of local references and there is enough to entertain audience members of all ages. What a joy it was to see very young members of the audience laughing so heartily and enjoying a live theatre experience again.
Perhaps the highlight of the evening is the Shoreham panto version of "The 12 days of Christmas", a pantomime standard for this time of year but one which works particularly well in this production. There were laughs-a-plenty from the watching families and oh how we can all do with some laughter after the year we have just had.
Do try to support Oh yes it is! if you can; you will not be disappointed and will be helping to support a jewel in the arts crown of Sussex. You have until New Year’s Eve at 6PM to get your tickets.
Reviewer: John Johnson