Hannah McCann as Miss Faintly (with Winky the Elf) in <i>Saucy Panto.  Photo: Daniel Eisenberg </i>

Hannah McCann as Miss Faintly (with Winky the Elf) in Saucy Panto. Photo: Daniel Eisenberg

Saucy Panto

By Stuart Roberts. Directed by David Clapham. The Masters of Space and Time in conjunction with Teatro Vivaldi Restaurant. Until December 16

Reviewer:  Peter Wilkins

Jim Adamik as the Lord of Misrule and David Clapham as the Dame in <i>Saucy Panto. Photo: Daniel Eisenberg </i>

Jim Adamik as the Lord of Misrule and David Clapham as the Dame in Saucy Panto. Photo: Daniel Eisenberg

Teatro Vivaldi is one of Canberra's theatrical treasures. Convivial, atmospheric and oozing style and charm, it is the ideal venue to host a panto to herald in the season of fine food, good wine and festive cheer. This season's frivolous theatrical fare is a local production of a saucy, silly and salacious pantomime in the Saturnalian tradition of lust, lascivious deeds and orgiastic delights.

Stuart Roberts's Saucy Panto has all the right ingredients to shock, surprise, titillate and tantalise. There is the thieving panto dame (David Clapham), the principal boy (Rachael Clapham), son of the errant vicar (Chris Zuber), a principal girl Miss Faintly (Hannah McCann) and the dastardly sleaze (Stuart Roberts). Jim Adamik, excelling again in a bombastic comic role, flourishes in depravity as Lord of Misrule. Puppet, Winky the Elf (Daniel Eisenberg) plays narrator of Pantoland, punishing prose with rhyming couplets. Erin Pugh contorts with comic absurdity as Mrs Twinge and Elizabeth McRae and Naomi Milthorpe score a touch of sinister psychosis as Naughty and Nice. Candy Cain (Steph Roberts) is the delightfully naive object of lust. Katie Doney as The Accountant and Andrew Holmes as the country yokel farmer make up an excellent cast.

This saucy panto needs more than this talented cast provides. Something in the recipe is missing and I suspect that the sauce lacks theatrical spice. The plot weaves and wavers its way through a sequence of seemingly disconnected vignettes. The story's arc appears lost in direction and able actors rely on their natural talent and accustomed mannerism to breathe life into the characters. Saucy Panto is a new and untried work with terrific actors, some very funny moments and good ideas in search of a narrative spine to hold its audience. In the festive atmosphere of a theatre restaurant, the audience needs to be warmed up before serving them with a diet of plot and character that requires the usual theatrical convention and attention. Some corny vaudevillian gags to open the second act set the right tone for a more engaging second half. Bawdy panto relies on the art of excess and audience interaction from the start.

Advertised as a show that is ''not for children or humourless gits'' Saucy Panto has all the ingredients for a fun-filled night of adult festive cheer. It just needs a little longer for the recipe to rise.