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Oh No It Isn’t! (Susan Elkin reiviews)

Show: Oh No it Isn’t!

Society: London (professional shows)

Venue: Jack Studio Theatre. 410 Brockley Road, London SE4 2DH

Credits: By Luke Adamson. Directed by Kate Bannister. Presented by The Jack Studio Theatre

Oh No it Isn’t!

4 stars

Photo: Davor Tovarlaza

Luke Adamson’s new play is a homage to pantomime. Funny in a bitter-sweet way, it’s partly celebratory but there’s also anguish – tragedy even – behind the scenes.

We’re in the dressing room of two men who are playing the ugly sisters in Cinderella and the rolling aside of a clothes rail (set design by Karl Swinyard) takes us neatly onto the panto stage, several times, so that we become the audience at this show within a show.

Mr Chancery (Matthew Parker)  is clearly better at the job and has other work to go on to after the panto run.  Mr Worth (Bryan Pilkington) is staler, corpses during the show and knows that his career is falling apart. These two men have evidently worked together many times before and there are ancient grudges which still rankle so they bicker.

Parker’s portrayal of Mr Chancery is of a man who knows his craft and can think logically about pantomime issues. His comic timing in the dressing room and his all-telling facial expressions are part of a fine performance. As Mr Worth, Pilkington gives us a sad, angry man who know that he is, almost literally, losing the plot but can do nothing to prevent the slide. The two men play off each other beautifully, especially in the final scene when their characters get out of their costumes (costume changes accompany much of the earlier dialogue) at the end of the show’s run and stop posturing. “You’re more likely to get cast if you’ve been on Love Island than if you’re been to bloody drama school” snarls Mr Worth. Adamson admits that much of this play is rooted in his own experience (like Mr Worth, he did his first panto at age 9) and I bet he has heard that bitter, truthful line said through gritted teeth in a dressing room somewhere

When the two men are on stage singing songs and doing routines there’s a lot of affectionate laughter. Of course the slosh scene is weak and the audience participation song excruciating but that’s the whole point. It’s a pretty lacklustre pantomime these characters are in. But they do all the “it’s behind you” and clumsy dances and songs in a hammy way and involve the real  Jack Studio audience as their panto audience. It’s a thoughtful, ingenious 65 minutes.

On Press Night the Parker and PIlkingon got five minutes into the show and the lighting decision seemed very odd because we could hardly see their faces. Then the Stage Manager announced there was a technical hitch and that we were going back to the beginning of the first song. That led to some cheerful adlibbing as the actors reversed the costume change they’d just done. It was all handled with smooth professionalism and the second time we had the lighting (designed by Robbie Butler) which meant we could see what was going on. It’s fun when things go wrong – as Pilkington quipped.

First published by Sardines:



Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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