Millennium Forum, Derry
Writer: David McLaughlin
Director: Jonathan Burgess
As befits a theatre built on the ancient city walls, there is a real sense of ownership about the annual Christmas pantomime in Derry’s Millennium Forum. From the stalls to the stage, from William Caulfield’s gossipy dame to the supple little performers of the Rainbow School of Dance, there’s a real shared sense of fun and camaraderie, of everyone being in this together.
Writer and producer David McLaughlin has come up with an entertaining, script, which colourfully tells the story of impoverished widow Dame Trott, her sons Jack and Billy, a quivering king, his wide-eyed daughter, a lovable cow and a thundering, avaricious giant who threatens their very existence from his lair at the top of a beanstalk.
In the second act, he makes a spectacular, towering appearance, to the delight of all. The moral tussle is nicely launched through the verse interventions of Orla Mullan’s do-gooding Fairy Rose Petal and James Lecky’s vampiric Flesh Creep. Jonathan Burgess directs with real chutzpah and, to the accompaniment of Alan Wright’s catchy live music, the storyline zips along at a brisk pace. In this city, whose inhabitants live and breathe politics, sideways quips about MLAs, Stormont and Sinn Féin are greeted with laughter and catcalls.
The seasoned performers in the cast have lost none of their expertise or enthusiasm for the task in hand. Stand-up comedian Caulfield, in his twelfth year at this venue, has a nicely judged, gentle touch about his engagement with the audience. At his elbow, Conor O’Kane is a bouncy, not very bright and extremely silly Billy, adored by the kids who greet his every appearance with deafening proof of their membership of his gang.
Runs until 31 December.
An edited version of this review was published in The Irish Times on 15 December.