“OH yes, they were. Oh no, they weren’t,”
What a 21 months it’s been for the panto industry, as their shows were on, then off, then definitely maybe... The pandemic has done the hokey-cokey with it - in, out, in, out, shake it all about by halving capacity.
But we got there in the end, and what a joy it was to behold the Everyman panto on Thursday night - an extravaganza of song, dance, fun, jokes, boos, hisses, cheers and tears.
Yes, it’s been scaled down somewhat, with a running time of 90 minutes and no interval; yes, we missed the smallies on the stage; and yes, the old place lost a smidgen of its atmosphere by being at just 50% capacity.
But the actors, singers, and dancers - and the audience too - all starved of live family entertainment for so long - lapped it up. What an antidote to all the gloom around... er, you know what.
It must have been tempting for Everyman panto stalwart Catherine Mahon Buckley and her team to inject a reference or two to Covid for a cheap boo, but no, this was a pandemic-free zone - and all the better for it; save for a hint in the final line of the night, delivered by panto dame Lola Twankey, who put a strong emphasis on the word ‘healthy’ as she wished us all a happy 2022.
This year’s show is Aladdin - but, this being the Everyman panto, it comes with a Cork twist, boy!
Dayl Cronin excels in the lead role, while Marion Goggin radiates as Princess Jasmine. As they fall in love and battle the evil Jafaaah - played by that supreme pantomime villain with a booming voice Michael Sands - we get plenty of light relief.
The jokes and fun came thick and fast from the brilliant, wise-cracking Ciaran Bermingham as Dame Twankey and Fionula Linehan as Wishee - two quintessentially Cork actors who clearly extract as much fun from panto as the children hollering with laughter in front o f them.
They have plenty of comic support from Graham McDermott as Jafaaah’s not-so-evil henchman, J’nolike (say it quickly!).
A special word, too, for John Sharpson, who revels in his role as Genic Mac, from the moment he arrives on stage in a puff of smoke, clad in green, and wielding a hurley. He delivers his lines with a Cork gusto that belies his Dublin heritage! (John will also be known to many kids as ‘Múinteoir John’ in RTÉ’s Home School Hub).
I didn’t register quite so many current pop songs this year (perhaps I’m getting old!), but there were plenty of gorgeous musical-style numbers, wonderfully choreographed and performed, and a musical highlight for me was a rousing rendition of Starlight as a finale.
Of course, the most important - and succinct - verdict of all came from my six-year-old, who had been enraptured and hung on every word and note. “It’s brilliant!” she declared breathlessly at the end. What she said.
Please note that, as per current Covid-19 guidelines, the Everyman will only be able to welcome patrons who are fully vaccinated, or have recovered from Covid-19 within the previous six months, or minors accompanied by an adult. Please bring photo ID and proof of vaccination with you.
For bookings see www.everymancork.com/