Twinkle, Little Star
York Theatre Royal
It's not often you spend an evening watching an elderly gentleman in his underwear and two pairs of tights do a striptease and then tell the wolf-whistling audience, "You need to get out more."
In Philip Meek's one act monologue we meet Harold Thropp, a long-time, now faded star of the role of Pantomime Dame. Meek's describes the play as a revenger's comedy and Harold certainly has a lot to feel aggrieved about. As he dresses for the part of Widow Twankey he reminisces on the past, from his up-bringing to his furtive explorations into the world of public toilet encounters and his homosexuality to meeting Eric, the long term love of his life. However his life has turned sour and so has he with the influx of reality TV contestants and Australian soap stars to the pantomime cast, who have not spent a life time crafting a role as Harold has in playing The Dame. While Harold's Widow Twankey may be 'a Lady', the bitter and foul mouthed Harold certainly is not.
This is the side to panto that the audience don't usually see and will intrigue and entertain both audience and those from the theatrical world alike. Kenneth Alan Taylor is superb as Harold Thropp, having appeared in twenty-four pantomimes himself, his comic timing is excellent and his pathos perfectly shadows the darker reflections. His transformation to Twankey is absorbing to watch, and with the final touch of his Dame's wig, he becomes the mythical, mystical Lady in which he believes so passionately and takes flight on the revenge he has extracted.
Meek's creates a fantastical world that is steeped in drama, exquisitely realised in Mark Walters' set of a dressing room of pantomime proportions. While this is not a piece to take the 'babies and bairns' to see, it exposes the crueller side of theatre's backstage bitching and the reality of TV's increasing role in pantomime. When you are no longer recognised, what lengths will you go to shine once more?
Emily Taylor reviewed this production at the Customs House, South Shields
Reviewer: Cecily Boys