December 3-January 11
Unity Theatre, Liverpool
Reviewed for Whatsonstage
‘Is that a pipe in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me’ is of course the kind of thing you would never ever hear in a panto – oh no you wouldn’t. The Unity after all is known for the moral of its tales, and the originality of adaptations. OK, there’s a wee bit of tampering with the ending, although there are various stories and some quite sinister since he’s the Rattenfänger,and in one version, the children have departed with their families, not disappeared – or maybe not, since they have gone to to Transylvania… it’s poor little Orphan Annie kind of thing rather than a little boy but this is one seasonal production which rarely fails to deliver the goods: charming, inventive and completely heartwarming, mastering the art of entertaining the entire family.
Basic scenery and costumes are put to good use with a variety of ingenious touches: the video backdrop and coat rack for props may now be virtually inevitable but the bonus is in the detail, for example, the village of Hamlin cunningly represented by a large mobile. And the songs are brilliant, whether jaunty or poignant – the music, of course, is most enticing.
The cast on the whole are exceptional, with laurels for a hilarious gruesome twosome: super slick mayor (Nathan Smith) and his dozy sidekick, Slime (Emma Hirons). However, while James Micheal Doolan does appear otherwordly as the Piper, he occasionally gives the impression of trying too hard, though the rest of the cast slip easily into their various roles: first rats, then villagers, mad scientists and so on; Edwina Lea is appealing in the pivotal role of the orphan, with a lovely singing voice.
A genuine Christmas treat, the message as ever: you mustn’t miss this magical show.