A Zoom Online Show
So, we’ve been in lockdown for four months now, it’s glorious sunshine outside and Cre8 Theatre, together with Buglight Theatre, are putting on a panto… Yes, it seems a bit weird to me too!
But, with lots of families stuck at home with bored kids, there is a captive audience (in more ways than one) ready to take on an interactive, intergenerational event. And what suits that better than panto? This production has all the traditional elements required: a pantomime cow; our young hero, Jack and his principle girl, Jill; a garish dame; and of course a giant, all in suitably over-the-top costumes. Each of the characters shares their own interactive rhymes and actions with the audience, who all seem keen to get involved with the singing, dancing, booing and the obligatory shouts of ‘it’s behind you!’.
Using Zoom offers a new, contemporary slant to the tale, allowing the storyline to embrace a technological framework. Here Jill (Holly Greig) is an internet vlogger, trapped in her Zoom square by the evil giant (Richard Galloway), a warning to us all of the dangers of computer viruses. The whole cast use Zoom connections to chat with the audience and allow individuals to participate visually, whilst screen filters overlay cartoon features onto the characters.
Before the show begins, we’re encouraged to switch on our microphone and webcams, so letting the production turn the cameras into our homes and allowing us to see ourselves, as well as the rest of the audience, onscreen. This does mean though that as an upbeat, high energy Dazey Cow (Althea Burey) starts the show the audience is still making so much background noise it’s a bit difficult to catch all her words. Thankfully this improves as the performance progresses.
A hilarious Christopher Grant plays the dame, Ms Pinch, in her ghastly outfits and make-up, successfully exploiting many traditional stage conventions, even slipping in the customary discreet adult jokes in the process. But panto like this is a vivacious, garish beast, designed to fill a great big auditorium. Trying to contain it in tiny Zoom boxes is like herding cats – it will find its own way to escape control. As the assembly of brash, exaggerated characters filled the screen repeatedly, after a while I found it all a bit overpowering. I was yearning for a bit of scale – just a visual pull back occasionally so there was some respite from the big faces.
On the subject of scale, one of the highlights of the show is the inventive use of a tiny, real-life spring onion to represent the beanstalk, before it is swapped to a cartoon background version. I did actually laugh out loud at this. Sometimes no pretence at illusion can be more effective than all the technology in the world.
Largely this is a bundle of panto fun, with a capable and enthusiastic cast, who maintain energy levels well throughout the performance, give or take a few moments of lag in the technology. It offers an innovative way to provide audience interaction and family entertainment, even in the middle of July.
Written by: Sarah Lyle
Directed by: Sarah Lyle and Keeley Lane
Produced by: Cre8 Theatre & Buglight Theatre