Richmond Theatre’s annual pantomime Goldilocks and the Three Bears was let down by an audience reluctant to participate.
Panto is unlike other forms of theatre. Loved for its terrible puns and questionable costumes, it embraces silliness and encourages you to cringe. This is no place to be stiff, but it seemed somebody needed to let Richmond locals in on this. With four more weeks to go, the cast can only hope for livelier audiences to cheer them on.
Whilst obviously geared towards children, the panto was littered with innuendos and adult references throughout but the purposely bad one liners often fell flat to the audience.
The panto was a Goldilocks and circus-madness fusion; despite there not being much of a plot the two hours were still enjoyable. Phil Walker played the traditional Buttons character Ringo the Ringmaster, the seasoned panto performer was energetic and enjoyable to watch. Matt Baker played Joey the Clown, a secret acrobat who is apparently in love with Goldilocks.
And would a panto be complete without a Dame? Oh no it wouldn’t! Nigel Ellacott played Dame Betty Barnum, and the classic raunchy character was equipped with the most elaborate outfits ever designed. Ellacot chose an audience member named “Andy” to flirt with all night; the one-sided gag turned comical when her intricate striptease revealed underwear with his name written on it.
Although encouraged to engage, Andy stayed silent throughout the flirtatious encounters and was likely intimidated by Ellacott’s theatrical and fabulous presence.
Gordon Marquez as El Mariachi Marquez stole the show with a fascinating juggling performance, utilising hats, bowling pins and even his mouth at one point.
Adhering to the circus theme, Phil Hitchcock as The Magical Mysterioso was invited to perform a magic act. The audience’s interest peaked during the act as he made three doves disappear and reappear.
Jessica Martin as the typical “baddie” character Countess Von Vinkelbotton deserved more time on stage. Although her German accent at times turned Scottish she embraced the fun of playing a hated character. Again, the audience chose not to heckle the villain, so her downfall was particularly underwhelming.
The show resolved quickly and was anticlimactic. Vinklebotton was caged without much of a fight and Goldilocks got engaged to Joey the Clown. Whilst there was no wedding and little explanation as to why the two got together, it’s widely accepted that most people don’t watch panto for the plot.
The spectacle was otherwise fascinating with an impressive ensemble all of whom are still at college. The young dancers changed through several glittery outfits thanks to the costume designers Mike Coltman and Teresa Nalton.
As the panto wrapped up some eccentric and expensive looking props graced the stage, namely a giant gorilla which consumed most of the background stage. The budget for this production spared no expense, the lighting and sound were consistently good with the exception of an ill-timed slap that came shortly after the gesture.
Goldilocks and the Three Bears will continue at Richmond theatre until Saturday Dec 31. Anybody craving a night of childlike joy can enjoy the performance until the end of the year. But remember, panto encourages participation!