When I heard about an improvised panto, I knew I had to check it out. It’s the 10th anniversary of The Suggestibles Impro Pantso and I couldn’t believe that I’d never been before. But this year has been a year of firsts culturally (including my first time at Edinburgh Festival) so it made sense to review it. It was great to see this in the round at Northern Stage (the theatre is currently home to a charming production of Alice in Wonderland), and we got a taste of what was to come from the rails of garish clothing to the side of the stage.
The cast came bounding onto the stage and explained what was going to happen (the audience plays a big part in choosing the characters, setting and storyline). From the offset things got pretty crazy – the traditional Buttons character (played by Ian McLaughlin) was renamed Buttocks and our Prince was named Brian (played by Bev Fox). When the audience was asked for a superpower for Brian, someone shouted babymaking, (yes the word superspunk was used) and then Storkville was suggested as a setting for this theatrical madness (Storkville ended up being in Texas after Brian’s accent lapsed into a Texan drawl). Storkville was a bit like Lapland but instead of elves making toys, the good people of the town’s main occupation was to create little people (Brian is like the fastest elf in the land in that respect). The main characters then ended up at Wet ‘n’ Wild where the log flume jokes started. The Suggestibles are really skilled at making up songs on the spot (it reminded me of Who’s Line Is It Anyway) and at points I felt like I was back at the Fringe, which I loved.
We were then introduced to the baddies – Brian’s evil aunts who hate children but see making babies as a business. At this point Brian had had an epiphany and realised that children should be created out of love and not just for the sake of it, which upset his aunts, who launched into a song about wet nursing in a jazz style (I bet they didn’t expect to be doing that before the show). He then met the beautiful and talented Chanita, a Mexican flamenco dancer who enchants Brian with her dancing skills. Things got passionate, but his evil aunt’s miniature henchman threw a spanner in the works and made out that she was married to Brian. Chanita then proceeded to throw herself off a balcony but survives (just), and to save her Brian had to go to Greggs Mountain where he needs to meet the Steak Bake Platypus (I think a lot of people had turned up drunk).
Brian then travelled by hovercraft (Anticraft) to reach the river of nonchalance, which was of course French (cue hilarity when trying to work out the accents of the actors playing the river whose nationality changed to Swedish, then European Nigerian, non racist Chinese (?) and South African). The suggestions became more and more bizarre as the night went on, pushing the actors slightly over the edge (“fuck my life” and “three years at RADA for THIS” were mentioned). We were again invited to choose accents and musical and film genres for Buttocks and Brian to act out (Beyonce became a musical genre in herself). Things got a bit too ridiculous by the end (the Steak Bake Platypus was wearing Greggs bags as gloves which was pretty hilarious) but Chanita and Brian were reunited and the evil aunt had to Flamenco the night away. Unfortunately I had to leave before the end and missed their interpretation of the 12 Days Of Christmas, which I’m sure was equally as filthy and hilarious as the rest of the show.