The Nativity Panto

Script by John Savournin, original music and lyrics by David Eaton
Charles Court Opera
King's Head Theatre
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What does Christmas mean to you? Is it the manger in Bethlehem, Father Christmas and presents or perhaps pantomime? John Savournin and David Eaton bring them all delightfully together in this latest of Charles Court Opera’s boutique offerings which they subtitle A Not-So Silent Night!.

The Nativity Panto pinches a large part of its plot from the New Testament and it is very cleverly handled. Joseph and Mary live at the North Pole where carpenter Joe is also an inventor determined to find a way of making his sleigh airborne since his reindeer Rudolph (the red-nosed one) hasn’t yet mastered how to fly. They don’t have any children. Mary longs for a baby but Joseph is always so busy he hadn’t got around to performing the necessary but (surprise, surprise!) a spiky-leaved Holly Spirit grants her wish with a little prick.

Here’s a star and three kings bearing gifts for the expected arrival but there’s a baddie, just like in that other story. Jack Frost doesn’t want competition from a new baby that would interfere with his plan to be King of the Elves.

Jennie Jacobs starts things off on Rachel Szmukler’s snow-covered set as storyteller Christmas Carol, then disappears to become a magnificently malevolent, icicle-fingered, all-silver Jack Frost. Meriel Cunningham is smiling Mary; maybe it is her dress that made me think Snow White. She is the only one of this cast of five who doesn’t double. Matthew Kellett (in his eighth Charles Court panto) is bundle of energy as Joseph, Catrine Kirkman Frost’s sidekick Snowflake and Emily Cairns takes Rudolph from self-conscious failure to sky-treading confidence, red nose a-glowing.

The three kings—Matthew as kinky King Key, Emily as Ruskie King Size and Catrine as King Pin—don’t bring the traditional gifts but ones more appropriate to this Christmas baby.

Behind all the fun is a hard-working company that bonds with the audience, bringing an evening of clever humour, innuendo, participation, a song-sheet and fine voices for this mixture of new songs and music ranging from traditional carols to tunes borrowed from opera and the Spice Girls. King’s Head regulars will love the way the usual opening sales pitch now comes up as interspersed mini commercials and those who are fans of the company will find some perky puppetry (though not the forest full of squirrels they had one year).

It’s a happy, feel-good evening (or matinée, with the show tailored for a younger a family audience) and some especially 'adult' nights. Choose your level when you book—and book you should for this is boutique panto on top form.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton