Spiderman: Into the Pantoverse

December 2, 2022 | By More

★★★☆☆   Cheerful

Bedlam Theatre: Wed 30 Nov – Sat 3 Dec 2022
Review by Hugh Simpson

Complicated plot twists and uncomplicated fun collide in Spiderman: Into the Pantoverse, EUTC’s unruly but heartfelt pantomime which plays at the Bedlam to Saturday.

Em Leites McPherson and Lewis Eggeling’s script unsurprisingly takes its lead from the 2018 animated feature Into the Spider-Verse.

A scene from Spiderman Into the Pantoverse. Pic: Jerry Li.

In this panto version, a showdown between Supersanta and the Green Grinch leads to Rudolph’s red nose creating a rift in the universe, through which come multiple versions of Santa. New Spiderman Miles is called upon to take on the role of Pantoman to manipulate the universe, using the conventions of pantomime in order to restore balance.

The structure hangs together considerably better than such a synopsis may suggest. While at times it does come across like an unconnected series of sketches, the overall story is a largely coherent one paying tribute to the unifying powers of creation, and to everyone who works in the theatre. Acknowledging both the strengths and the drawbacks of pantomime, it is remarkably earnest and really rather sweet.

adult content

There are a few references designed primarily for students, but overall it is fairly accessible. Constant warnings about adult content encompass little more than swearing, and some references that are rather nearer the knuckle than the regular panto.

However, it is not a million miles away from your average family entertainment; the familiar (and rather homespun) riff on brand names is not as adult as it tries to be.

Meanwhile, Mrs Claus (played with gusto by Seamus Coyle) may be pitched as more of a modern, Drag Race-style characterisation, but has more in common with a traditional pantomime dame than anyone in the production would probably care to admit.

A scene from Spiderman Into the Pantoverse. Pic: Jerry Li. 

McPherson is also credited as co-director with Leon Niven, who shares the MD role with Eggeling, who also provides lyrics. None of them are afraid of using time-honoured tropes and set pieces – even to the extent of including a sing-off between the two halves of the audience.

This certainly won’t be the only show this year featuring a reworking of Encanto’s We Don’t Talk About Bruno; considerably less welcome is yet another appearance of the inexplicably still-popular Escape (The Pina Colada Song). Musical numbers are used judiciously, however, and the choreography of Rose Marin Roberts makes good use of the 15-strong ensemble.

skew whiff logic

The show’s decidedly skew whiff logic is found wanting in the introduction of some of the characters, particularly the various Santas from other dimensions, but the roles are attacked with genuine enthusiasm, and there is a great deal of talent on display, with too many participants to name-check them all.

Sam Waite as the main villain, a Santa who wants to take over the world with Coca-Cola, is beautifully louche and pleasingly angular, as if a young Bill Nighy had been cast as the Master in Doctor Who. This strand of the plot is also reinforced by some excellent use of branding in the theatre bar.

A scene from Spiderman Into the Pantoverse. Pic: Jerry Li. 

Mallory Smith as Green Grinch is an ideal performer for this genre, apparently always on the edge of chaos while always being firmly in control. Anna Yarwood’s enviable control of timing, accurate to the split second as Supersanta makes for tremendous comedy.

Tai Remus Elliot’s blusteringly assertive, borderline unhinged Father Christmas and Zac Askham’s step-dancing moose are more expansive comic creations. Central to it all is Lish Keir’s Miles, whose comparative diffidence makes some of the dialogue difficult to make out at first, but the performance works well as the injection of humanity and realism necessary to hold everything together.

The second act is notably more self-indulgent than the first, apparently relying too much on call-backs to a previous Bedlam panto, but always retains a definite attraction, even when it appears to be on the verge of falling apart.

due credit

A particularly heartening aspect of this production is how it gives due credit to those working backstage and technical crew members whose roles are so vital and so often unappreciated. As the Bedlam continues to give opportunities to so many in this regard, this is only fitting, in a production that goes exactly where it aims for, and has considerable fun getting there.

Running time 2 hours 15 minutes including one interval
Bedlam Theatre, 11b Bristo Place, EH1 1EZ
Wednesday 30 November – Saturday 3 December 2022
Evenings at 7.30 pm
Information and tickets: Book here.

Cast and Crew of Spiderman Into the Pantoverse. Pic: Jerry Li. 

ENDS

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