Despite a slow start and some missed opportunities for humour, this year’s CUADC & Footlights panto, The Gingerbread Man, is a competent, fun and well-constructed production.
The production opens with a video, three Maltesers and a storyteller. While interesting, the sound was a bit awry and the storyteller initially overpowered by the music, something evident throughout the first half of the production where entire lines got lost. Badbury, who is generally played well and sung beautifully by Amaya Holman, sometimes gets so high-pitched and shrill in this opening number that she becomes difficult to understand. She does, however, settle more comfortably into her character as the production goes on, and the big reveal of her true identity is perfectly realised.
All of Geraint Owen’s musical numbers, the opening number aside, are a delight and the production really picks up pace and becomes engaging from the introduction of the Baked Goods in the Candy Cane Forest onwards. Tom Nunan is excellent as the Tooth Fairy; he is the pantomime dame, comic lead and the deus ex machina-esque good fairy archetype all rolled into one, managing to be both charming and, at times, delightfully sinister. Though compelling and certainly a highlight of the production, the combination can be a little irksome, where Nunan isn’t really free to engage fully with all the different sides to the character’s personality. That said, any dental deviant singing in a flamenco dress about her love for a sprig of broccoli (Brocc-Ole!) has my vote.
Milo Callaghan is very well cast in the starring role, Gingie. Unfortunately, however, the chemistry with Grace Glevey as Banana is non-existent in spite of their beautifully sung duet. Banana’s capture by the enemy is then one of the most ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ moments and Gingie doesn’t really seem to care all that much, jetting into space with the rest of the Baked Goods for no truly discernable reason. That said, the whole martian sequence is bizarre and thrilling, with some excellent and strangely reflective moments; Louis Elton’s performance as Irn-Bru, delivering stirring speeches calling for Scottish independence, is a particular highlight of this section.
Costumes by Ruby Clare were hit and miss. The Milky Bar Kid was instantly recognisable and drew much amusement and After Eight was shrewdly put-together with clock face jacket and sparkly green waistcoat. Others were merely satisfactory, with little thought having been paid to the details. Rebecca Fry’s lighting, by contrast, was very competent and creative, especially when the cauldron creating Gingie trembled ominously.
Set-ups for jokes were good, but sometimes there was a lack of follow-through. The musical number ‘Too dry to cry’ is a good example. Harriet Fisher as Bounty is an engaging and vocally competent singer, carrying the song well, but aside from the initial pun it was lacking in humour.
The Gingerbread Man is not always exactly a traditional pantomime, but there are many laughs to be had and the entire cast and production team should congratulate themselves on a job well done.