Thursday 18 December 2014

Pantomime

Olympia THEATRE, Dublin

John and Edward have been called a lot of things but nobody has gone so far as to accuse the troll-haired pop twosome of being budding Laurence Oliviers. Apparently well aware of this, for their lead roles in Jedward and the Magic Lamp they seem to have decided the smart strategy is it to wreak the maximum amount of on-stage chaos. When it comes to freewheeling zaniness they are, we can agree, masters of all they survey.

Crouched low on kiddie scooters, the pair swoosh into view half an hour in and appear to be not so much starring in a completely different production from the rest of the cast as inhabiting a parallel universe. As Widow Twanky (Al Porter) and Aladdin (Ryan Andrews of Fair City) try to hold the scene together the twins mug maniacally, flipping cartwheels and clambering over the set like pubescent chimps whose feed is laced with Red Bull. "Here, is this a circus or a panto?" asks Porter, just about keeping the irritation out of his voice.

Jedward's latest Christmas pantomime starts well, Andrews leading a dozen leggy dancers through the Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen duet 'Good Time'. There are few things in this world that cannot be improved by synchronised choreography and this performance bears the theory out: it's a cracking routine that blends the energy of contemporary pop music with the unsullied exuberance of the finest children's entertainment.

Sadly, good clean fun is in shorter supply in Fiona Looney's script. The shoe-horning of adult references and jokes has a rich tradition in panto. However, Looney puts too much rum in the eggnog, and sometimes you can't help gagging. Do we really need quips about "Linda Martin's cave", endless Gerry Adams asides and ongoing references to TDs Mick Wallace and Clare Daly as "Wallace and Vomit"?

None of that has much to do with Jedward and you sense they are happy for it to stay that way. Instead of buying into the formalities of panto, they hijack them. With the beats pumping higher and higher, John and Edward do that peculiar pogo of theirs (involving them jumping on the spot, a single hand held in their air). Their musical numbers are the song and dance equivalent of a hostile take-over. The atmosphere is more high-energy pop show than musical theatre, the perfect backdrop for Jedward's champion-class giddiness and surprisingly polished tunes. It is tremendously brash and enjoyable but you suspect the twins would be better off in a straightforward concert setting rather than figuratively bundled into a panto straitjacket.

Irish Independent

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