Stage

Review: The Baltic Princess, Waterfront Hall

The Baltic Princess runs until December 29 at Belfast's Waterfront Hall

WAITING FOR PICS

The Baltic Princess

Waterfront Hall, Belfast

Before the Waterfront's adult panto got underway, we boogied in the Studio to the strains of D:Ream's Things Can Only Get Better.

Funnily enough, some of the best bits of this jolly hour and a quarter's fun were slightly political.

A character called Kane Paisley Jr ("We don't want to get sued", as the eponymous princess told us) was the villain of the piece, aiming to take over the kingdom in between holidays.

Comic Sean Hegarty's mirthless laugh was inspired.

Pantomime has been risque since its beginnings in commedia del'arte and English music hall. Oh yes, it has.

What's clever in Martin Lynch's GBLProductions show is the way an innocent, reognisable form about the quest for love has been adapted and stuffed with rude words, ruder concepts and a genuinely funny scene with Princess Elsie (outstanding Gerard McCabe) consulting a grown-up dating app.

This is a fairly x-rated Frozen which doesn't take itself too seriously. You have two sisters, Elsie (who says 'Let it go' in a note to her sis), younger sister Annie and their beaux, Mr Paisley and the hapless Peter.

The plot is at times underwhelming, but as in non over-18 panto, the story can become incidental. We do, though, get passages on the need for Mount Stormont to reboot which get applause and recognition.

There is of course audience participation with a slightly flaccid Mr and Mrs sequence and people dragged on to advise our heroines on their romantic predicaments.

There are some anthems, including the inevitable I Will Survive and All By Myself, with appeal to the groups of women having a good time in an 80 per cent female audience.

Some of the funniest moments come from the practised ad libbing between the three actors.

McCabe as Elsie is a star, even when forgetting her meringue of a wig. Hegarty as Peter and Kane, rushing between the two roles with deliberate mistakes, is a hoot.

For me, Annie, the Derry Girls genius Diona Doherty (and Mrs Hegarty) is not quite so rib-tickling here, vocally less assured, but maybe that's the fault of the role.

During the evening, women identifying via headgear as Elfies took numerous selfies and the audience produced a giggles soundtrack. It was that kind of night.

:: The Baltic Princess runs on selected dates until December 29. See www.thewaterfront.co.uk.

Jane Hardy

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