wed 17/08/2022

Goldilocks and the Three Bears, London Palladium review - joyously filthy fun | reviews, news & interviews

Goldilocks and the Three Bears, London Palladium review - joyously filthy fun

Goldilocks and the Three Bears, London Palladium review - joyously filthy fun

Purists may quibble at circus-themed show

Julian Clary resplendent in one of his many costumes as The Ringmaster Photographs by Paul Coltas

When Qdos brought back pantomime to the Palladium three years ago after an absence of nearly 30 years, it set the bar high with superb production values, a large ensemble, a live band – and a stage stuffed with stars. 

Now those stars – Julian Clary, Paul O'Grady, Paul Zerdin, Nigel Havers and Gary Wilmot – have become a sort of panto ensemble in their own right and reassemble for this year's outing, Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

Traditionalists will quibble – perhaps fairly – as it's several minutes into the show before it even looks like a panto, when O'Grady's baddie, Baron von Savage, rudely interrupts the opening Busby Berkeley-esque number and tells us he is going to shut down a rival circus, run by Dame Betty Barnum (Wilmot).

The story – for what it is, as Clary's Ringmaster keeps pointing out as he offers a waspish commentary on proceeedings – concerns the Three Bears mistakenly taking Dame Betty's money (kept in a honey pot) and then being kidnapped by the cruel Baron, who locks his animals in cages. Goldilocks (Sophie Isaacs) and Joey the Clown (television presenter Matt Baker, both pictured below) rescue the bears and retrieve the money.

The show is interspersed with terrific song-and-dance numbers and real-life circus acts – stunt motorcyclists, daredevil rollerskaters and a magician – and while the latter group's presence is sort of justified by the Barnum storyline, they rather get in the way of proceedings and reduce the amount of time that might have been better spent on traditional panto shtick.

The three female characters (Mummy and Baby Bear and Goldilocks herself), meanwhile, barely register. This is a male-dominated show (albeit two of them are in frocks) and the evening's highlights come when the male stars are on stage together in various groupings.

But oh my gosh, when the panto does kick in, it is sublimely funny, with a joyously filthy script (by director Michael Harrison, with additional material by the stars). Clary is on great form, getting every sexual “ring” reference you could possibly imagine, plus all sorts of inventive ways of referencing gay sex. Talking of another circus he says: “Billy Smarts... but only at the start.” O'Grady isn't far behind in the filth stakes.

Havers (Daddy Bear), like the rest of the cast, is a good sport as he is made the butt of several jokes about his, er, small part, while ventriloquist Zerdin (Silly Billy) is also on top form. Baker makes an accomplished panto debut, showing off both his childhood acrobatic talents and the dancing skills he learned on Strictly Come Dancing and, as Clary dismissively describes him, “looking nice and being Northern”.

It may not be for panto purists, or the pure of mind, but this is great fun.

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