The Fourth Dispatches From A Football Sofa Christmas Special
Football fans are full of festive cheer up and down the land as once again pantomime fever takes hold. There’s something on offer for every member of the family. Some fruitiness, some laughter, a few songs, vile villains and all wrapped up in ninety minutes for you to then go out and panic buy a pair of socks for Uncle Jim. Here then, for your amusement and delectation is a round-up of some the finest productions currently doing the seasonal circuit in the Greatest League In The World.
The people of Manchester are being wowed by Etihad’s production of Manuel Pellegrini and the Seven Dwarves in which a quiet and unassuming manager happily goes about his daily chores, preparing his little men for work with a whistle and a rhyme. The dwarves prove to be an irresistible force as they slay German dragons and anybody else who comes across their path. An enduring lesson to youngsters watching that size does not necessarily matter. Be warned however, that tickets for this show do not come cheap and you might be better off going across town to the Theatre of Dreams, an establishment that is currently under new management. The fare offered may not be as attractive but the sandwiches on sale at the interval are a wonder to behold.
What would a pantomime be though without a villain? The Premier League has outdone itself this year with a whole host of stars lining up to be honoured as the most dastardly of cads. Over in Cardiff, Vincent Tan and the Magic Lamp, has produced a wonderful villain in the shape of its eponymous star. A lovely twist on the old Aladdin story, it has Tan polishing a long-neglected lamp to unleash a succession of horrors that have left hardened theatregoers in tears. Be warned, this is not a show for the faint-hearted and spectators are required to wear red or otherwise face ejection. Tan literally brings the house down every evening with his indecipherable rendition of ABBA’s, Money, Money, Money sung as a duet via Skype with fellow mischief-maker, Assem Allam who is currently disappointing crowds in Hull/Cuckooland.
Liverpool however, boasts the country’s most sought after and accomplished villain in the shape of the incomparable Luis Suarez. Audiences have been consistently on their feet as he swishes his cape and tiptoes towards his adversaries with fangs bared leaving everybody screaming, “He’s behind you!” at the innocent victims of his skullduggery. It being Christmas and a time for forgiveness and goodwill though, Suarez has also miraculously undergone a transformation that has recently seen him avoiding the perils of typecasting. Expect many critics to write up more favourable reviews in the near future.
Dames are also in abundance this yuletide with two of the finest drag acts to be found playing to packed houses in the Hull and East London areas. Seasoned regulars Steve Bruce and Sam Allardyce have been shifting their breastforms and applying the lippy as they reprise their much-loved roles of Beryl The Dinner Lady and Harriet Hammertime with hammy aplomb. Advice to those in the front row is to avert their eyes during showstoppers like Big Spender and Man, I Feel Like A Woman. It’s not a pretty sight.
For the aesthetes among you, conventions are being challenged by auteur director Arsene Wenger in London’s Islington. The maverick genius has boldly staged a production of Jack and the Beanstalk that casts heartthrob Jack Wilshire in a quest to reach seemingly unattainable heights. Performed solely in French and with a heady mix of Brechtian theatre, mime, ballet and Eastern philosophy, it has left audiences both dazzled and perplexed since it opened. The show has been routinely savaged by the critics and this has been highlighted by an eerie silence that regularly falls over the auditorium on show nights but it nevertheless continues to be a very comfortable night out for all the family.
Pantomimes are generally considered to provide stages for once famous journeymen to have one final lucrative payday before the anonymity of retirement beckons and this particular Premier League panto season definitely doesn’t disappoint. If you’re stuck for something to do on a Saturday afternoon, why not get yourself down to the Britannia at Stoke or Fulham’s Craven Cottage where you’ll find former A-listers such as Peter Crouch, Dimitar Berbatov and John Arne Riise re-living former glories for knockdown prices. Tuesday matinees in Stoke during the month of December have been recently cancelled however because nobody fancied it. “Oh, no they haven’t,” you might say. “Oh yes, they have,” this erstwhile reviewer would retort.
Some venues have been lucky enough to secure encore performances from stellar performers and this is clearly the case over at Stamford Bridge which has seen not only Jose Mourinho return for a second spell as Baron Hard-Up but also Michael Essien re-cast in the role of Buttons, his/her hapless son in Chelsea’s Pensioners (Lost) In The Woods. Catch it while you can though. The notoriously demanding theatre impresario Roman Abramovich has just announced that Mourinho will only be seen treading these boards for a very limited season.
Of course, no summary of this December’s finest productions would be complete without special mention for the perennial farce that is in residency at London’s White Hart Lane. It’s well-known that Daniel Levy has spent many years honing his signature role as the back end of the pantomime horse. However, it’s his inability to retain the front-end that has had them all rolling in the aisles over recent days. A must-not-see.
Sadly, there are not enough words to cover all the fabulous productions touring this year. But whether you are in Norwich, Newcastle, Southampton or somewhere near a theatre beyond the bright lights of the Premier League, do try and get yourself to a show this Christmas. After all, it beats having to mime the ‘offside rule’ in a game of charades with Uncle Jim. “Oh, no it…”
The Theoharis family would like to wish everybody who stops by to read these witterings, a very Happy Christmas and at least one win for your club over the festive season. See you on the other side.
The Christmas Specials:
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