The Albany, Great Portland Street, London, 15/12/2019
Sixteen odd years ago David Reed and Thom Tuck of the sketch group The Penny Dreadfuls wrote this pantomime version of Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring and now it’s finally seen the light of day as the annual Alternative Comedy Memorial Society’s panto. Performed by (among others) Siân Docksey, Eleanor Morton, Joz Norris, John Robertson, Alice Fraser, John-Luke Roberts and the sketch group Shelf, with so many talented individuals involved it was always unlikely to be a disaster.
And it wasn’t. But this would be a pretty awful review if I left it at that, however tempting it may be. Live directed by Thom Tuck who interjected every so often to explain jokes / apologise for a dodgy gag, he rarely had to do so and normally it was only after being teased by a member of the cast about how dated a joke was, which given that it was originally written so long ago was more than understandable and only added to the ramshackle charm of the piece.
More importantly the vast majority of the jokes were very funny indeed, there were two fantastic songs sung by the entire cast which were pastiches of tracks from Joseph and His Technicolor Dreamcoat and Bugsy Malone with the lyrics suitably changed, and the panto spirit was adhered too by the audience with a good few utterances of “He’s behind you”, along with usage of the ACMS’s catchphrase “A noble failure”. The (very organised) giving out of sweets and presents (aka unwanted items the producer didn’t want anymore) was a fun element too, especially as incorporated in to proceedings were two (still wrapped) condoms mysteriously found on the venue’s stairs.
The performances were superb throughout, with John-Luke Roberts unsurprisingly being sublime after deciding about three minutes in that it’d be much more fun if he performed his role as “Widow Gandalf”, and Siân Docksey made for an extremely funny Frodo as she casually sauntered her way through the play without a care in the world. Eleanor Morton’s gruff Boromir came with lots of fantastic Sean Bean related jokes, Joz Norris doubled up as both Legolas and Elrond, impressing greatly when he played both in the same scene, while John Robertson made for an excellent Saruman (and, briefly, Saruwoman).
Indeed there wasn’t a poor performance in the whole piece which is pretty impressive given how many were involved and that they reputedly didn’t get the script until the previous Thursday, I’d list them all but I’m a lazy, lazy man (and it’s possible I didn’t catch all of the names of those involved, but I’m admitting nothing), and all of them deserve kudos for their efforts. I’ll definitely be checking out their solo efforts off of the back of this, many a future ACMS gig, and will without doubt be back for next year’s panto, whether it’s the threatened version of The Two Towers or not.
The Alternative Comedy Memorial Society’s Official Site.