Pam Ann: Flying with Winter Wonder-Pam, Bloomsbury Theatre, London
Wednesday 29 December 2004
Having bid an emotional farewell at Heathrow to a good friend bound for Sydney in the afternoon, boarding Pam Ann's scheduled "flight" to Sydney in the evening had a cruel irony to it.
Having bid an emotional farewell at Heathrow to a good friend bound for Sydney in the afternoon, boarding Pam Ann's scheduled "flight" to Sydney in the evening had a cruel irony to it. Fortunately, Caroline Reid's kitsch trolley-dolly parody provided a high enough standard of in-flight entertainment for the majority of her passengers, myself included, to forget their earthbound woes.
On this particular night, the first Saturday of her run, all the main long- and short-haul airlines seemed to be represented in the audience, and on occasion the show felt like an amalgamated air industry Christmas party. But while the workers will always lap up the in-jokes, in this era of the bargain flight not even the civilians were left behind for too long.
As the glamorous and elitist face of the skies, however, Pam Ann has little truck with the no-frills approach. So if you were in economy (in other words, the Circle seats), or worked for an economy airline ("Melbourne? That's 40 Edinburghs to you, easyJet, or 40 Corks to you, Ryanair"), you were in line for a bit of air rage. "Some of us get to first class, while some of us complain of a sore arse," mused Pam, and judging by the plastic glasses that were thrown from economy at one point, she had some "passengers" correctly sussed as cheap.
Resembling a cross between Toni Collette and Elsie Tanner and resplendent in her turquoise uniform, Pam Ann laid it on thick for the better behaved travellers in first class, (the front row), upgrading one lady to the very exclusive hot seat on stage. If this kept some of the audience on their toes, her bitchy banter with a group of stewardesses on the same row was more flat-footed. However, in the midst of all this were some nice caricatures - for example, her impression of horsey BA staff or her take on refreshment trolley etiquette - although a stereotype of a Singapore Airlines stewardess was rather crude, if effective.
Though the show never feels like a long haul, there are moments when it is in a vacuum, and nothing quite matches the hilarity of the opening "safety video", which contains pearls of wisdom such as: "What looks like a pleasant flight could end up in serious terror." It's a nice line, one reminiscent of Jimmy Carr, who, incidentally, contributed to Pam's only foray into television a few years ago.
An honourable mention must go to Pam's People, four "hunks" dancing to disco tunes in costumes that include inflatable plane tutus - very popular with the large gay contingent in the audience and, mostly, a fun interlude on the journey. Pam herself is, as one might expect, gay royalty, as befits a lady who has supported Cher on tour.
But despite her cult status her schtick is very accessible, and whether gay, straight, economy or club class, Pam Ann offers everyone something with wings on - even if it's not always supersonic.
To 8 January (020-7388 8822)
Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight
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