Theatres that aren’t putting on pantomimes face something of a dilemma – what do you do to ensure you capture audience attention in this most lucrative of seasons? Some theatres like the Almeida programme counter-intuitively whilst others go for alternatively festive fare (see Wilton’s Music Hall and the Christmas-set The Box of Delights).Or you can do what the Park have done and put in family-friendly fare like Daisy Pulls It Off.
It’s a nifty move as this type of play – an Olivier winner from 1983 no less – fulfils much of the same purpose as panto, in its endearing daftness as it evokes a world of 1920s jolly-hockey-sticks adventuring and in its slyly subversive sense of humour which manages that thing of making the kids laugh on the one level and letting the parents get their giggles in a naughtier, bawdier way. It’s all rather silly but good fun with it.
It helps that the experienced hand of Paulette Randall is directing, having gathered together a marvellously diverse cast which knows no age or colour lines but all the more impressively makes no big deal of it. This further adds to the playfulness of this production as it is clear that the likes of Pauline McLynn, Shobna Gulati, heck the whole cast are having the time of their lives as jape follows jape in the attempts to save Grangewood School for Girls.
Perhaps, appropriately for the season, Daisy Pulls It Off isn’t a show to be taken too seriously, for it certainly doesn’t take itself too seriously. Anna Shaffer as Daisy finds the right level of go-getting pluck, supported by McLynn’s gamely ditzy Trixie as her new best friend. And Gulati and Clare Perkins are huge amounts of fun as their nemeses, making its points about social snobbery and private education as well as packing in the laughs.