REVIEW: Tweedy’s Reduced Panto at The Everyman, Cheltenham
PUBLISHED: 12:40 05 December 2020 | UPDATED: 12:42 05 December 2020
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‘This is exactly what I – and most of the world – have been missing for far too long: a live show, in an actual theatre, with energy flowing joyously from the stage, and people all around laughing at the same time. It’s enough to make the heart sing.’
At some point, while sitting in the beloved auditorium of Cheltenham’s Everyman Theatre, I realised I hadn’t cried with laughter for a very long time.
Don’t get me wrong. Lockdown in our household has been, on the whole, a pretty jolly affair. More time spent with the family, working from home with sun streaming through the window and The Cramps on Spotify, and those wonderful long walks exploring the countryside nearby. But laughing ’til my face ached and scalp tingled had - until last night – eluded me for some months. In fact, I’d go so far as to say, I probably haven’t been in that “what the hell’s wrong with her?” kind of state since Gifford’s brilliant Xanadu show, summer 2019.
And the common denominator? It’s that little tinker Tweedy, of course.
This is exactly what I – and most of the world – have been missing for far too long: a live show, in an actual theatre, with energy flowing joyously from the stage, and people all around (adhering to government social-distancing guidelines, of course) laughing (behind soon forgotten face masks) at the same time. It’s enough to make the heart sing.
Very few pantos are happening this year. We all know why, of course, but it doesn’t stop you wanting to pout and stamp your feet at the injustice of it all... but there’s a golden ray of light at the end of the Covid-shaped dark tunnel, and it’s coming from the Everyman.
Despite the name of the show – Tweedy’s Reduced Pantomime – this is no one-man performance. Oh no. Our flame-quiffed hero is joined by a cast of six other multi-talented marvels as they run through 13 (count ’em) pantomime favourites, with minimal props, playful costume changes and fast-paced choreography, plus one-liners, tongue-twisters and mind-bogglingly complicated routines that leave you breathless with admiration.
And if I’ve just suggested there’s an on-stage cast of just seven, though, that would be misleading, as the whole thing is actually pulled together with stroppy ‘oh, if I must’ appearances by actual assistant stage manager Alys Robinson. She throws props onto the stage with the petulance of a moody adolescent, stomps on to lift up scenery, and generally tries to convince us this is a throw-together affair that could go horribly wrong at any moment. But ‘thrown together’ is the last thing this brilliant show is.
As mentioned, the choreography is breath-taking, with the comic timing we’ve come to expect from anything Tweedy has his hand in, and the script-writing is genius. It’s everso slightly on the wrong side of shocking double-entendre... actually, scratch that, it’s pure, deliciously high-camp filth at times, which thankfully soars over the heads of the younger members of the audience (while their parents snort shamelessly into their face masks).
The writing couldn’t be more on the button, given the weird times we’ve all been living through. Expect Trumpisms, Hancock’s horrific mishandlings, and short-sighted trips to Barnard Castle. Uncomfortable fodder for Boris & co, perhaps, but cleverly done and delivered with a twinkle in the eye and not a scrap of vitriol.
The talent really is top-class all round, with the vocal and dancing skills of Sam Holmes, Tsemaye Bob-Egbe, Ben Darcy, Casey Al-Shaqsy, Kane Verrall and Kevin Brewis matching that of our Tweedy – and the camaraderie and genuine friendship between them shines out brighter than any panto dame’s sequinned bloomers.
If you’re of the mind that panto’s not for you, then I urge you, in the name of all that is good and shockingly indecent, to give Tweedy’s Reduced Panto a go.
I’d go so far as to say it should be prescribed on the NHS.
Tweedy’s Reduced Pantomime (That Might Go A Bit Wrong!) is at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham, until Sunday, January 3, 2021. Box office: 01242 572573. everymantheatre.org.uk/shows/tweedy-s-reduced-pantomime
Before travelling, check out Tweedy’s essential message on YouTube.