Know any partners who aren’t into panto? A good test of any scrooge’s credentials would be a trip to Charles Court Opera’s ‘boutique’ panto-western Billy the Kid.
Picture outlaw Billy as a tap-dancing goat and cast a cockney salesman as the cartoon villain and you’ll be halfway to the Rosemary Branch ranch.
Peddler Micky Mumford (Bruce Graham) wants debt-saddled Buckaroo Dan, played by the sweetly swashbuckling Joanna Marie Skillett, to sell him his prize goat (and best mate) Billy.
On a mission to get Billy stuffed, Mumford follows the cowboys on a caper through Indian country, led by pretty (and indentured) seamstress squaw Pocabeaver (Nichola Jolley) to search for treasure to pay Dan’s bills.
Can the friends stick together and save the Billy goat’s hide?
John Savournin, also directing and choreographing, is a riot as saloon sexpot Nellie, kept busy resisting the advances of the lusty town Sheriff (the talented Amy J. Payne), who wants to her settle down and raise “brothel sprouts”.
The amorous Sheriff has more luck with Nellie’s long-lost sister Chief Raging Hormone, played by a now-moccasined Savournin, who succumbs to the moustachioed marshal and agrees to make “Cact-I into Cact-us”.
The couple’s coquetry is a highlight and reaches its climax as Raging Hormone – a tower of matronly magnetism, treats her lover to an erotic basket weaving demonstration in a rather special lampoon of Patrick Swayze’s pottery wheel scene from Ghost. A row of peyote-fuelled coyote puppets also give a killer rendition of ‘Mr Sandman’, showcasing the impressive vocal talent of the entire cast.
Musical director and keyboard player David Eaton deserves credit, as it’s all about the songs, really. For a reputed ‘leftfield’ panto Billy the Kid is entirely unsubversive, except perhaps for any Indigenous People of the Americas in the audience.
Despite resting happily in the traditional trilogy of pun, innuendo and slapstick, the ‘Look behind yous’ are notably absent. Depending on your predilection for participation this will be a blessing or a travesty.
If it’s the latter then opt for a seat with leg room.
Then, like your reviewer, you too could find yourself donning pink marigolds and milking a furry chipboard buffalo on stage (we couldn’t make cheese, no whey!).
Worth it for a front row seat at this wise-crackin’, barn-stormin’ show.
Billy the Kid is at the Rosemary Branch Theatre, 2 Shepperton Road, N1 3DT until 10 January