Disclaimer: Complimentary tickets were gifted for review purposes. All views and opinions are my own
Well, well, well. It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down to write a theatre review. Thanks to our new friend, Covid-19, I’ve had a number of theatre trips cancelled, not to mention the shows that myself and the girls should have been performing in.
To help get me in the right frame of mind to write this review, I went back and re-read all of my previous Pantaloons reviews. (There have been 7 to date!). I was surprised to find that it’s been 5 years since I first watched The Pantaloons in their production of Pride and Prejudice. I was even more shocked to discover that it’s been 2 years since I last saw them perform! That’s appalling! I should have to hand in my “Fantaloon” badge. I was clearly well overdue for my latest Pantaloon fix.
One of the (only) things I’ve loved about lockdown is how it’s forced us to find new and imaginative ways to continue with the things we enjoy. The Arts industry has been amongst those that has found creative ways to continue to produce and share content and you don’t get much more creative and imaginative than The Pantaloons.
After having to cancel their Spring tour of “Bleak House”, The Pantaloons immediately began to explore alternative ways to keep in touch with their audience. Most recently, this involved an online production of “Stay Holmes”, which they very kindly invited me to review. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve always fantasized about having The Pantaloons live in my living room, but I never would have imagined it would happen quite like this!
“Stay Holmes”, adapted and directed by Mark Hayward, combines a selection of classic Sherlock Holmes mysteries into approximately 90 minutes of hilarity, hi-jinx and whodunnits!
Our cast for the evening featured four of my favourite Pantaloons, (in no particular order): Alex Rivers, Kelly Griffiths , Christopher Smart and Edward Ferrow. Each actor, as usual, took on a number of characters within the show, each with their own individual quirks, to help the story come to life.
I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to give a comedic performance without any sense of feedback from the audience, but the cast didn’t seem at all phased. The audience may have been muted, but I’m sure I wasn’t the only one laughing out loud at the characters’ hilarious antics. Alex Rivers’ evil laugh as Moriarty was a particular highlight – it still makes me chuckle thinking about it days later!
One thing that I particularly loved about this performance was how it incorporated the features available in Zoom to enhance the viewing experience for the audience. This was not your standard theatrical performance, filmed and subsequently streamed online. “Stay Holmes” was clearly designed with the intention of being streamed online and certain areas of the performance were adapted accordingly.
There were plenty of Zoom gags, including some very funny failed attempts at handshakes through the screen. The “Speaker” view was cleverly used to direct the audience’s attention as required. The “Chat” features were used to help keep the audience involved with interactive elements of the show. There was even occasions when the audience could appear in the show, by showing their video feed on screen at opportune moments. (Don’t worry – you can always turn off your video if that’s not something you’re comfortable with.)
Long-standing fans of The Pantaloons will be happy to hear that “Stay Holmes” still managed to incorporate many of the key features you’d expect from a good Pantaloons performance. There was plenty of ad-libbing and interaction with the audience. There was audience participation. There was even still the inevitable stealing of drinks from the audience, albeit in a very different way to usual.
Although obviously nothing can quite compare to the thrill of live theatre, I would happily spend another evening in the comfort of my own home being entertained by The Pantaloons. It had all of their usual flair, while keeping things fresh and interesting in unusual circumstances. And I certainly couldn’t complain about the journey home afterwards!
In a world where safety is paramount and people are still a little wary of heading out of their homes, I could definitely see this being a great way for the entertainment industry to continue to produce content and reach their audiences. It’s also great from an accessibility perspective, giving people who aren’t normally able to get to theatres to be able to access content from the comfort of their own homes. I could absolutely see online theatre becoming an art form in itself, and if everyone approaches it with the same imagination as The Pantaloons, then I am 100% on board!
As with so many theatrical organisations, The Pantaloons now need support from theatre lovers more than ever to enable them to continue to produce the kind of material we’ve grown to love. Although this was the last online performance for a while (but hopefully not forever!), they will be embarking on an outdoor Summer tour of Sherlock Holmes and also Twelfth Night. These shows are planned to be Covid-secure and will be socially distanced, following Government guidance.
If you’re still feeling unsure about venturing out in the current climate, there are other ways you can support The Pantaloons. Since the beginning of lock-down they have been crowdfunding for a radio play of their cancelled production of “Bleak House”. A donation of £25 not only helps support The Pantaloons in future endeavours, but also gets you a digital copy of the radio play.
You can also buy official “Pantaloons” merchandise as well as offering donations or other methods of support. Details of all the above can be found on their website thepantaloons.co.uk
Thanks again to everyone involved with “Stay Holmes” for inviting me to enjoy a great evening of entertainment. Here’s hoping it won’t be quite as long before I see you again!