mon 26/02/2024

The Foreigners' Panto, BOLD Theatre review - no laughing matter | reviews, news & interviews

The Foreigners' Panto, BOLD Theatre review - no laughing matter

The Foreigners' Panto, BOLD Theatre review - no laughing matter

Immigration madness given a panto makeover

Amanda Vilanova, Fabrizio Matteini and Aliya Roberts in 'The Foreigners' Panto'Lidia Crisafulli

The starting point of this musical comedy – using a panto format to take a deep dive into the UK's immigration law – comes from such a good place that one feels a real heel for criticising it. But however much I wanted to like Shani Erez's ambitious work for BOLD Theatre, I really couldn't.

The story within a story follows a group of immigrants to “Britaim” as they stage a panto – what could be more British? – to show their love and knowledge of UK culture.

For panto fans there are nods to Dick Whittington, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty as the story follows Lord Villain (Vikash Bhai), the nasty lord mayor of “Londom”, as he moves to deport Dame Foreign (Fabrizio Matteini), who works several jobs (including as the mayor's cleaner) to support her daughter, Zara (Aliyah Roberts) and their cow, Visa (Amanda Vilanova). PC John Constable (Paul Gabriel) is on hand to lock them up, while Villain's son, Benedict Bumbercatch (Suzy Kohane), in true panto fashion, falls for Zara, even though he can't pronounce her name.

In the meta thread running through the show, Zara is the woman trying, and mostly failing as the panto's director, to keep the often confused cast happy, while also keeping the show on the road – all while waiting for the Home Office's decision on her application to stay.

There were points when the show was so poor that I thought the cast were just doing a very good impression of the hopeless actors they are portraying. Sadly no, as Erez applies so many narrative layers into the show that it all falls apart despite their best efforts as jokes misfire, punchlines lack any punch and the audience participation feels painfully forced.

But Zara's offstage story has some political bite as we see her distress when she learns of the Home Office's decision, and her number about the joys of taking a London night bus is the show's musical highlight (music by Tomer Run and Erez, musical direction by Leo Elso). Kohane, meanwhile, provides some solid comedy, as does Vilanova, the subject of the show's best gag when she drops dead, “the visa has expired”.

Under the direction of Marianne Badrichani, Sarah Goddard and Erez (too many cooks, etc....) The Foreigners' Panto feels under-rehearsed and over-written – and, despite its earnest message, an unfunny, overlong mess.

Zara's offstage story has some political bite


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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