Rosemary Branch Theatre’s Beowulf offers a side-splitting night out
If you’re hoping to learn the full details about the classic Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf you might be disappointed. But if you want a rollicking good show with plenty of slapstick you’re in for a great time.
Now in its fifteenth year the pub theatre at Shepperton Road on the borders of Hoxton stages an annual panto and this year the Charles Court Opera company was happy to oblige with its fifth annual pantomime.
The show follows the story of the heroic warrior Beowulf, played stylishly by Kevin Kyle, who arrives at the court of King Hrothgar, performed by Simon Masterton-Smith, who captures the king’s inebriation perfectly. The palace is being devastated by the monster Grendel and it falls to the lot of Beowulf and his trusty sidekick Wiglaf, a thigh slapping Amy J Payne, to defeat the monster.
But the romp takes liberties with the historic poem, compressing several episodes including Beowulf’s encounters with Grendel’s mother and his battles with the dragon.
However Charles Court Opera can be forgiven all that as the show packs a punch and combines the beautiful singing of the Spirit of Good Cheer, played by a witty Sian Winstanley and the sublime voice of Catrine Kirkman, who plays the Princess Hrothmund.
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All the elements of panto are there, including audience participation, sing-a-longs, custard pie throwing, ad libing and corpsing - which is much enjoyed by the cast and spectators.
The songs are taken from a range of sources, including Les Miserables, and pop songs from Queen and Bonnie Tyler, which are delivered with aplomb, as you would expect from a cast which is used to performing opera.
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Director John Savournin is a hilarious panto dame as Grendel’s mum and Philip Lee is very amusing as Grendel himself who is forced to collect food to keep the evil dragon’s hunger satisfied.
Music is provided by James Young and David Eaton, who also play courtiers, and drummer Ben Calvert.
On reflection most of the audience will leave a little wiser about the tale of Beowulf, and may even be spurred to pick up Seamus Heaney’s version of the tale.
Almost certainly they will leave after a good night out and laughing til their sides hurt.
The show continues until January 8, with some adults only performances. Contact the box office on 020 7704 6665, www.rosemarybranch.co.uk