I was a bit lost when I emerged onto the Wandsworrth Road and looked around for the Lost Theatre. But there it was, next to Lambeth College, and glad I am that I found it. The small auditorium was packed with an enthusiastic audience, many of whom were clearly loyal fans of Excess All Areas, a troupe who have been putting on a Christmas pantomime in this neck of the woods for the past thirteen years – mostly on a barge moored in the Thames, before being ‘rendered’ to their present land-locked location.
Audience participation was very much the thing. The actors were encouraging it, and the audience (including Sir Ian McKellen) were loving it. The show is the brain-child of Paul L. Martin, and it is brainy as well as bawdy. The script is very clever. It crackles and fizzes with one-liners that come thick and fast, full of references to contemporary politics and culture. It is also choc-a-block with outrageous puns and innuendo, not to say strong language. This is not a family show, indeed children are not allowed. But it is very much in the pantomimic tradition, including a dame played by Mr Martin himself, and invocations of the phrase “It’s behind you!”. As for contemporary politics, Nigel Farage has now become so well-known that he is the (scarcely disguised) pantomime villain of the piece.
Little depends upon the plot in this show, which sends up a variety of traditional themes. The cast, who are uniformly excellent, whizz the show along at a cracking pace, with numerous costume changes, song and dance routines and sing-alongs with the audience, some of whom get roped onto the stage (which is also traditional). For me, the most impressive thing of all was the singing, climaxing with a polyphonic adaptation of a well-known carol that would have won the approval of Palestrina.
But you will have to be quick if you want to catch this show. It is only running for four nights, ending on Wednesday 17th December. You will not be disappointed if you make the effort to venture along the Wandsworth Road and lose your blues at the Lost Theatre.