Pegasus Theatre’s cracker of a Christmas show showered us with Christmas spirit, while dazzling us with a fizzing, whizzing Gallic plot, inspired by the French Revolution.
In the third year of a seasonal partnership between Pegasus and Gonzo Moose, the inventiveness of the cast-written script and co-writer Abigail Anderson’s crackling direction is as entertaining as ever. Children will love it, and adults will be glad they came. It hits the festive Christmas spot with a thwack and twang of energy – love, loyalty and courage are the story’s bedrock values, yet laughter carries the show. This is going to be fun.
From the first chords of the galloping overture, there’s so much at stake. Lisping but loveable Louis XVI is imprisoned, awaiting the guillotine. Yet his gurgling, giggly wide-eyed ingénue wife Marie Antoinette appears impervious to danger. She charms the audience with her twists and twirls. Mortal peril cannot dent her pouting pirouette.
Threatening them both is the dastardly Citizen de Rien, who dreams of a greater France rising from the bloodshed of Revolution. Yet de Rien has fallen into the tyrannical practices he has sought, doggedly (and dodgily) to overthrow.
All that stands between Citizen de Rien (Jonathan Peck) and his bloody ambitions is a pea: Le Grand Pois. Part Pimpernel, part vegetable extraordinaire, part incidental disseminator of Vitamin C, (a green pea is his calling card), Mark Dawson excels in portraying Le Grand Pois’s elegant fan of disguises with athleticism and wit. One moment Dawson is a swift-footed swashbuckler, engaging de Rien in expert swordsplay; the next he is David, the celebrated painter in a smock and beret, peeping out from behind a huge canvas . Meanwhile, de Rien strikes an heroic attitude, oblivious to the fun being poked at him by Dawson’s flourishing paintbrush.
Peck is a fine actor, and his Citizen de Rien is superbly drawn. There is pathos, as well as menace in his villainy. Peck revels in the audience’s disapproval, wafting their hearty boos and jeers towards him with long, pale fingers, and inhaling them defiantly through flared nostrils. Peck’s solo clowning with the Overture and Le Fin were masterful.
A confident and engaging performance from Lauren Silver completed the trio of actors. Playing the accordion as she sang gave a Gallic flavour to her self-penned songs. Silver’s improvised joking with two children, in fits of giggles on the front row, was beautifully judged.
The set’s versatility allowed many locations to be evoked: the drip of the Paris sewers in which three tiers of bodies crawled one above another was terrific. Flag-waving, curtain dropping, tower climbing, dungeon delving – the sparse bars did it all.
For a festive Christmas treat – go Gonzo Moose!