Publicity Designer: Al Ro

It is 15th-century Paris, and a hideous, hunchbacked man called Quasimodo has been living in the bell tower of Notre Dame Cathedral for his whole life, under the power of cruel villain Frollo. With only his imaginary friends and bells for company, he one day seizes the opportunity to leave the cathedral on the day of the Feast of Fools, and there he meets and befriends the poor, the very people that Frollo has been oppressing and trying to erase from Paris. The Hunchback of Notre Dame is an interesting choice for a pantomime – as said in the play itself, it’s hardly family-friendly – but the script (written by Zak Ghazi-Torbati and Sam Knights) was devised to put emphasis on equality, justice and empowerment of people, and teaches the lesson of love and acceptance triumphing over discrimination and evil. Not to forget the liberal sprinkling of questionable French accents and bad French puns – although, if you like puns, you’re in for a treat when it comes to the bells.

“The enthusiasm was high throughout the cast”

Of course, the main reason anyone goes to a pantomime is to relax and have a laugh at something that isn’t necessarily high-brow comedy. And Notre Dame succeeds at being incredibly good fun. The audience participation is there from the start, with a big ‘Frère Jacques’ sing-along, and doesn’t end with just the usual ‘he’s behind you’ gag. The French tour guides (Leo Reich and Meg Coslett) come around for a chat during the interval, and the audience gets the opportunity to throw objects at the stage (although not because they’re having a bad time). However, if you’re not one for interacting then perhaps stay away from the front row!

“The songs were not the sort that you’d walk away from the theatre humming to yourself, but were pleasant”

The enthusiasm was high throughout the cast, and this made everyone truly enjoyable to watch, even the chorus members in the back of a dance scene. Their comedy was such that even the cast members often failed to rein their giggles in. The main character Quasimodo (Robin Franklin) had fantastic energy, and Esmerelda (Megan Gilbert) conveyed the independence of a truly modern heroine. But the real star of the show, outshining even the rapping goat (Adam Mirsky), was the loveable pantomime dame – the Notre Dame (John Tothill). Charming, funny and faithfully accompanied by two gargoyles, the Dame was the centre of some of the most notable, amusing and least plot-relevant scenes in the show. A catwalk scene and a dance scene set in the cathedral were two highlights, despite not having much bearing on the storyline. The Notre Dame also had a bold set of costumes (designed by Jana Panakova) that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Paris Fashion Week, each never failing to outdo the last in their flamboyance and silliness.


Mountain View

Review: Radamisto

The set mostly consisted of four large boxes on wheels, but the large stained-glass window was an eye-catching backdrop and set the scene well. There was a creative use of lighting to create silhouettes, and for added wow factor there even featured a trap door, smoke and confetti.

The band were very slick, and the singing was lively and engaging from the chorus. The soloists had strong voices, Frollo (Zak Ghazi-Torbati) in particular. The songs were not the sort that you’d walk away from the theatre humming to yourself, but were pleasant and added to the drama and uplifting mood of the show. The choreography (Natalie Haslam) was pulled off well, even with some more athletic moments, and if this wasn’t enough, they even threw in a sword fight.

There’s no better way to round off the term than with a good pantomime, and this is the one to see. It fulfils all the criteria for a good panto – over-the-top, big musical numbers, a witty script and, most importantly, great fun

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