Written by Nick Cassenbaum
Directed by Abi Anderson
London’s Jewish cultural centre JW3 makes its first foray into the seasonal (and traditionally secular) world of pantomime with a schmaltzified take on the classic yarn of Little Red Riding Hood. Taking an obscure connection into the evil world of corporate greed (ergo the Big Bad Pig) and an even more obscure connection involving the dame’s flatulence, a curious tale emerges that revolves around saving the Jewish festival of Chanukah.
This is a story that the little-ones will enjoy for sure, but if a pantomime is to truly be family entertainment then there needs to be some comedy meat (and sauce) for the grown-ups to laugh at too. Debbie Chazen puts in a game performance as dame Mother Hoodman, but she lacks both the heft and the cojones to make her character soar. A decent dame needs (ideally) to be played by a bloke with the recognised gravitas that enables us to laugh both at, and with, his drag-festooned character. It’s a tough, complex, role to fulfil and one can understand the producer’s casting challenge: Who is there in the Jewish acting world that can fit that bill?
Elsewhere the company all put in a fine shift, Tiago Fonseca’s Bubbah being a classy display of physical comedy in particular. Josh Middleton (who has also arranged the show’s excellent musical accompaniment) directs his 3-piece band from on high.
This is a noble effort from JW3, albeit more purimspiel than pantomime. If there are future plans for a seasonal panto to play here then their script and casting needs a lot more work if they are to succeed in delivering festive fun for all the family.
Runs until 7th January 2024
Photo credit: Jane Hobson