What do you do when a beloved dame hangs up his frock? Rope in some half-familiar face from reality TV? Scour the stage for any remaining knights of the realm who have not yet given interviews explaining why playing the dame is harder than playing Hamlet? Or do the decent thing and train a new acolyte in the mysterious ways of the wig?
After 25 years of seasonal gender disorder, Kenneth Alan Taylor has handed over the bloomers and big book of innuendo to John Elkington, a hard-working Playhouse regular who has made his way through the ranks to be appointed Nottingham's new dame.
Elkington has obviously worked hard on key mannerisms and boasts an impressive range of filthily coy glances, lavish false eyelash-batting, and the all-important purse-lipped moue, which puts you in mind of a cat sitting on the loo. Indeed, this maiden dame scarcely puts a foot wrong, which may be part of the problem. Elkington has an amiable persona, but his performance seems to be lacking in anarchy. The best pantos are those that appear to be just one custard pie short of disaster – there may be a custard shortage in Nottingham as there is no slapstick element at all, and little of the ribald, off-script diversion that makes panto the last surviving branch of music hall. It takes time to become a local legend, but come back in 25 years and he'll be marvellous.
Until 23 January. Box office: 0115 9419419.
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