Theatre review: Billy the Kid at the Rosemary Branch

billy the kid

billy the kid - Credit: Archant

It’s worth saddling up for this Wild West-themed panto, says Aline Waites

In their latest boutique Panto at the Rosie, the Charles Court Opera presents a trip to the Wild West with as many references to American Cowboy movies as to English pantomime. It consists of a ludicrous plot to find treasure, thus saving the hero, Buckaroo Dan, from eviction. Dan is played by powerful soprano Joanna Marie Skillett (great to have a principal boy played by a girl) and the principal girl is Pocobeaver, an exquisite Indian Squaw played by Nichola Jolley.

John Savournin, who devises and directs all the shows, is Nellie, the owner of the Saloon – accurately realised by William Fricker’s set design, unusually beautiful and enhanced by exciting lighting effects by Nic Holdridge. Savournin is tall and deep voiced with splendid comic timing and irresistibly sexy to Amy J Payne, who plays the Sheriff.

Perhaps the most startling character is the eponymous one. Billy the Kid is no outlaw, but is actually Dan’s friend, a pet goat played by Matthew Kellett.

As in all good Pantos there is a dastardly villain Micky Mumford (travelling artefacts) and as in all good American movies, the villain is an Englishman, who speaks in cockney rhyming slang except when he goes into rhymed couplets expressing his evil plans to slaughter the company, steal the treasure and turn Billy into a fur rug. He is played by the great Bruce Graham and looks exactly like John Bull.

What is so exceptional about these productions is the wonderful singers who effortlessly manage the complicated harmonies by musical director David Eaton, with songs ranging from grand opera to hymns to top of the pops.

There are some great set pieces – watch out for the coyotes! The script is full of terrible puns and innuendos and there is some reasonably painless audience participation. Highly recommended!

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Rating: 5/5 stars

Until 10th January 2015.

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