Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Sinbad the Sailor

Berwick Kaler
York Theatre Royal
(2007)

David Leonard as Jack Warlock, Martin Barrass as Binbag and Berwick Kaler as Nelli Fartardo (Karl Andre Photography)

This is rubbish. Pure, unadulterated rubbish. And the cast continually remind you of it for the duration. However it is rubbish that Berwick Kaler has perfected to an art form and the multitudes of York faithful return every year to be, once again, "Me babbies! Me bairns!"

The infamous York Theatre Royal Pantomime is both a legend and a law unto itself. Revelling in the puerile, the facile and myriad of York references, it never fails to make you groan till you're ready to take a sick day off work for the damage it has done to your sense of humour. I would try to relate the plot in this review, were I not unsure as to whether the cast really know it either. Suffice to say there's a prince, a princess, a thoroughly boo-able baddy, a dupe, a monkey, a man in a fly suit, a dangerous quest, the songs and dances along the way and all led by the unchallengeable queen of all panto dames, Berwick Kaler.

In an inspired start to the show Kaler uses a video sequence which sees Nelli Fartardo walking through the streets of York passing many and varied of York notables including the local news-reader and Mayor, all set to the tune of The Proclaimers' I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles). Joining him is the irrepressible Martin Barrass (as Binbag) being put upon whilst showing off his gymnastic falling down skills, David Leonard (as Jack Warlock) with a beautiful audition piece for the Ministry of Silly Walks and dressed to impress as the pirate captain baddy. Therein follows much spoofing of The Pirates of the Caribbean with Leonard looking better than Johnny Depp but undoubtedly not hearing the wolf whistles over the booing, of which he enjoys every second.

Vincent Gray plays the athletic eponymous hero, with Sian Howard gracing the stage as Sultana Shish Kebab and later Queen Nefertiti. Howard elegantly battles with the impossible challenge of having to recount intricate plot details whilst being upstaged by Kaler and a travelling pair of bosoms. This year, Suzy Cooper, Kaler's usual Principle Boy, is elsewhere and therefore the leading lady part is disappointingly filled by Julie-Anna Castro. However the scene stealer of the night has to go to the loveable AJ Powell playing Ali-Lujah, with the most outrageous accent and best minor contributions of the night.

As ever the costumes are one of the highlights of the evening from Kaler's fabulous frocks right down to his Mini-Me Dame in training, with designers Daniels and Cusick Smith not letting one inch of set space go un-glittered. Unfortunately, in comparison to previous aquatic escapades, this year's underwater scene failed to ignite but will surely come in for some fun on the last night of the York Panto, when the backstage staff get to play tricks on the cast.

The sense of community that brings together this 'rubbish', as Kaler calls it, is undeniable and creates such a tie that it brings its audiences back to York Theatre Royal for Christmas every year from all over the world. "I think I enjoy the pain," as my friend commented on the night, and whether young or old, new to York or not, Kaler's panto will always be a must see.

Reviewer: Cecily Boys