The potty twosome are back. After latching on to a good thing with their reductive rendition of the Harry Potter books in Potted Potter, Dan and Jeff turn their hands to pantomime.
The aim of Potted Panto, they tell us during a suitably silly preamble, is to stage six pantomimes in one show, a feat you might think would lead to a mad scramble of costumes, props and running around in a rush to fit six fulsome plots into a show of just over an hour and a half. Indeed, scrambling and running around they do, but Dan and Jeff also manage to make the task seem somehow leisurely, with plenty of time to fit in a diversion into some man-made 3D, a lesson in panto traditions – including a particularly leisurely segment on the use of ‘he’s behind you’ – and ample repartee sandwiched between stories.
The pantos themselves are condensed into a succession of enjoyably silly accents, cross-dressing, innuendo and visual gags: Dick Whittington’s Cat is a streetwise Ali G impersonator, Jack gets his golden egg from a moose rather than a goose, and Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother becomes a French-accented Fairy Godchicken seemingly so that Dan can have the chance to say ‘Oui Oui’ on stage. A particular highlight is Dan’s four stereotyped fairies in Sleeping Beauty; the evil fairy of the South being a cork-hatted Aussie.
The duo know their roles and stick to them: Jeff is the straight guy and Dan the silly one; Jeff gets the story moving while Dan diverts it into silliness. It is an obviously practised partnership that works well.
While the show is aimed squarely at children – and judging by the enthusiastic reaction satisfies its market – Potted Panto has enough to amuse accompanying parents: references to tube strikes and student riots make their way into Dick Whittington’s London journey, and MC Hammer’s U Can’t Touch This pops up in Snow White (you can’t touch the apple, says the evil fairy). While these elements will most likely go over kids’ heads, they are not alienating, though a reference to WW2 film Das Boot may leave them a little puzzled.
In the end this is a family show, and it concludes on a family-friendly note, with a rather twee medley of Aladdin and A Christmas Carol that sees the evil Abanazar succumb to a Scrooge-style happy ending. With a song and a laugh, Dan and Jeff leave the stage – certainly not in the tidy manner they found it – having served up a messy, fun and energetic dose of Christmas cheer.