Saturday, 5 January 2013

I love the panto - well, that's not strictly true. I am not generally a fan of comedies or musicals and pantos combine elements of the two, but I love the pantomime at the Hackney Empire. 

Fittingly, this holiday season has paid tribute to London, and specifically Hackney, which has had a glorious 2012 as host to the Olympics. Creative director Susie Mckenna, who has been at the helm since 1998, has done it again with another panto that is a crowd pleaser for all ages. 

I thought the sets were a little lacklustre compared to previous years, and - dare I say it - some of the costumes were from previous pantos. I am all for a little upcycling, but was the giant gorilla doing on stage at the end? And not making more swipes at Boris as Major of London was a wasted opportunity, but that's a small quibble.

The street dancing rats were captivating, and Steve Elias as the pantomime dame an absolute joy. Rina Fatania does a fabulous job as a timid trainee Bollywood fairy and there are some really gifted singers in the strong cast; most notably Dick (Joanna Riding).

Even though this season's run may have wavered a little, it's one of the best shows in town. There are bags of gags, loads of energy and a feel good factor that remains with you long after you have left the sumptuous Georgian theatre that is a spectacle in its own right. Predictably Dick Whttington at the Empire was a sell out, so I suggest you buy your tickets as soon as they come on sale in 2013.