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Posts Tagged ‘Alexia Khadime’

What’s left to be said about the Hackney Empire panto? A freshly minted script and score every year by Susie McKenna and Steve Edis respectively. Production values at least as good as a West End show, and better than many, with brilliantly colourful sets and costumes by Lotte Collett. Sky high musical standards that better any other panto, anywhere (and boy, can the class of 2016 sing!). Not a talentless ‘celebrity’ in sight. A warm community feel that makes you feel at home even if you’re from south of the river like me, or 100 miles further north like my guests. The only Christmas tradition I like and will never lose.

This year we have the tale of the Princess of Hackneytonia, daughter of King Eric the Undecided, promised to the neighbouring Prince of Westminsteria when she reaches 18, under the spell of the dark fairy Carabosse. We have not one, but three good fairies, and a delightful dragon called Denzil. Our Dame is the princess’ Nanny Nora. All the usual ingredients are there, including some slapstick and a sing-along. There’s a particularly good scene in a forest with luminous insects, a lovely Ogre and the arrival of a spectacular giant dragon. Susie McKenna’s scrip has just the right amount of political bite, with excellent well deserved swipes at two of the year’s real life baddies, Boris and Trump. Steven Edis has written some fine new songs and Mark Dickman’s band do them full justice.

The force of nature that is Sharon D Clarke is the dark fairy, who fortunately turns good as I couldn’t hate her for much longer, with great presence and powerful vocals. Alexia Khadime is charming as the Princess, also with great vocal prowess. Regular dame Clive Rowe has handed his pinnie to Gavin Spokes who, after a tentative start, won us over. Regulars Kat B has bags of charm as Denzil the dragon and once he too turns good, so does Darren Hart as Carabosse’s sidekick. Other regular Tony Whittle is a delightful bumbling King in keeping with his Undecided moniker.

Raving about this institution may seem a bit boring, but I can’t lie and the real thing is far from boring. Off you go……..

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For the fourth year running I ended the theatrical year at the New Year’s Eve panto matinée at the Hackney Empire. Last year they survived without Dame Clive Rowe – Cinderella didn’t really need a dame, just two ugly sisters. This year I was a bit nervous going to see someone else (metaphorically) wearing his frocks and wigs, but from the moment of her aerial arrival to the bond theme (remember when you last saw someone do that?), Steve Elias’s Welsher-than-Welsh Sarah the Cook had us in her / his spell. Brilliant comic timing, superb costumes (Lotte Collett) and a great voice. Until then, it had been a slow start, but from then on it was a treat.

Last year’s baddie, Joanna Riding, was a lovely principal boy able to show off her even finer voice to full effect this time. Tony Whittle and Kat B move from ugly sisters to nice Alderman Fitzwarren and nasty King Rat respectively. There were lovely performances from Alexia Khadime as Dicks’ love interest Alice (another great voice), Darren Hart as Idle Jack and Stephen Emery as a very acrobatic cat. The fairy’s a trainee from Bollywood and there’s a terrific gorilla.

Add to that an underwater ballet populated by a mermaid, an octopus and all manner of tropical fish, a troop of monkeys back on land and of course, King Rat’s horde of smaller rats. There’s a great cat singalong with actions from the entire audience on its feet.. …and just to prove panto can be topical, all this usual cross-dressing means we end with three weddings, two of which are same-sex weddings! The customary singing of Auld Lang Syne with audience and cast linking hands makes a lovelier end to the year than bucketloads of booze and a sky full of fireworks. 

So it’s official – Hackney’s pantos are the best AND prove to be Rowe-proof. Oh yes they are! Now, Steve Elias AND Clive Rowe; a panto with two dames, Susie McKenna?…..

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