REVIEW: Hilarious show had the audience crying with laughter

Geppetto - John Firth and the Blue Rinse Fairy - Fiona Cuthbert with Pinocchio - Helen Gee and Penne Pasta - Lisa Gladstone. Picture by Jane Coltman
Geppetto - John Firth and the Blue Rinse Fairy - Fiona Cuthbert with Pinocchio - Helen Gee and Penne Pasta - Lisa Gladstone. Picture by Jane Coltman

Pinocchio, Alnwick Theatre Club, Alnwick Playhouse, Friday, January 16.

This year’s panto was a very well thought-out production, with hilarious elements reminiscent of a live Mrs Brown’s Boys show.

Alnwick Theatre club is currently entertaining us to the panto classic Pinocchio, which would not be complete without the legendary Alnwick twists to the plot.

This year for the 39th pantomime, the thespians treated us to an original take on the original book by Carlo Collodi, rather than the Disney classic.

The show did not fall short on ticking off the panto checklist of audience participation, terribly hilarious jokes, slapstick comedy and, of course, water guns so the audience came away physically crying with laughter.

The story is set in the village of Bon Gateo where an old toymaker, Geppetto (John Firth) longs for his own real-life son after previous attempts of making children went wrong.

His wish comes true when the Blue Rinse Fairy (Fiona Cuthbert) grants him the wish of a son Pinocchio (Helen Gee) but must prove his worth to get his girl, Penne Pasta (Lisa Gladstone).

However, he needs to contend with the dastardly Stromboli (Trevor Hughes) before he can finally become ‘a real boy’.

After being away from the Alnwick area for a few years and not being too unfamiliar to the Playhouse stage myself, it was an absolute pleasure to be back watching some good old Playhouse legends return to the stage once again.

Of course, no Alnwick panto would be complete without a duet performance from Jimmy Dodds and Peter Lewis who happened to co-produce the show this year.

After the performance kicked off with an opening number where the chorus were difficult to hear as the backing track was too loud, Dodds, who played Barbina Pasta, mother of Penne Pasta (see the joke there?) was in his element as the dame and you could see the audience sit up in their seats on his first entry.

As the show progressed and the cast shook off the first-night jitters, all of the characters were, in their own way, stand-out performers.

One of the flavours that made the show so much better than any other panto I’ve seen on the Playhouse stage before was that when something went wrong, they just kept on going and made a complete joke out of it which made it almost like watching a live performance of Mrs Brown’s Boys.

This is mainly directed to a scene in the second half where Barbina has to make a special pizza order. A prop malfunctioned earlier in the scene than expected and covered the dame in flour,

Dodds’ reaction was hilarious and I don’t think i’ve laughed so much in a while. Personally think these moments should be a regular thing!

Particular stand-out performances for me came from Helen Gee, who managed to pull off playing a young boy whilst maintaining a spot on Yorkshire accent and she doesn’t half have a good set of pipes on her, she was clearly the best singer of the lot.

Also a shout-out should go duo Andrew Kane (Geordio) and Nick Lewis (Julio) whose comic performance had the audience in stitches and, in my view, pegged the show together, particularly in the second half.

Dare I say it, could Kane and Lewis Jr be the next couple to take over in a few years if Dodds and Lewis Sr decide to hand up the wigs?

You also cannot forget the brilliant performance by the kids at the Alnwick Academy of Dance which really lifted the performance and kept up the momentum for the remainder of the second half.

But the star of the show has be Domino (again with the pizza reference!), the cat played by Duchess’s Community High School teacher Pete Burrow. It’s hard to imagine that someone who teaches geography can have so many good dance moves and have the audience in stitches.

Overall, you can’t knock that this was a great evening out, with jokes that were so cleverly written by Sophie Towers. You can have room for the odd naughty joke but still retain a family show.

Hats off to the Alnwick Playhouse lighting team who did a brilliant job creating an impressive backdrop and all the backstage crew who kept the show moving despite the very difficult set changes, which seemed almost seamless.

A final shout-out to all the chorus members who helped give the show a kick in the right direction and were enjoying every moment on the stage.

Performances continue tonight and next week; Saturday, January 17 (2pm and 7.30pm); Wednesday, January 21 (7.30pm); Thursday, January 22 (7.30pm); Friday, January 23 (7.30pm), and Saturday, January 24 (2pm and 7.30pm).

Tickets – £9, £10 premier or £6 child/student – are available from the Playhouse box office on 01665 510785 or www.alnwickplayhouse.co.uk