Pam Ann: Terror at 41,000 Feet, Assembly Hall, Tunbridge Wells
Thursday 03 April 2008
When Pam Ann, the buxom, errant and flamboyant air hostess creation of Caroline Reid, graduated from gay cabaret clubs to provincial arts centres, without compromising the references to poppers and cocaine along the way, her gigs became like large air industry jollies, corporate gigs open to all.
However, "Terror at 41,000 Feet" ought to be the last destination for Pam's now tired ideas, fit only perhaps for cheering the harangued staff of British Airways, who recently used Pam for one of their training films.
Pam's shows fall into a definite formula; a spoof film, banter identifying her "gays" and her "crew", set-pieces with those groups and finally an appearance from her One World Alliance, a collection of characters who represent a number of popular airlines.
Often the spoof film is a parody of an in-flight information movie but tonight Pam superimposes herself onto scenes from Airport 1975 to try to do what Steve Martin did with Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid. Fortunately the ideas don't even stretch to trailer-length.
The banter with the gays and the crew that opens each half of the show is usually given initial impetus by whatever the latest air travel is. "Terminal 5 came at the right time for me" admits Pam tonight, saying she'd moved her airline into Terminal 4. As for the recent baggage debacle, she uses it to goad BA staff that they should not be at her gig but helping the baggage-less.
The set pieces tonight include recreating what Terminal 5 should have been like by getting crew members to swan around to disco music and there's a challenge to crew members to get into a life-jacket within 30 seconds. Finally, the One World Alliance gets a brief outing showing what they would do in the face of a hi-jacker; mostly pout as it turns out, in a sequence spare of verbal wit.
There are laughs en route; the Terminal 5 material was fun and her assertion that the luggage conveyor belts there were now accompanied by The Funeral March was a nice observation. Bitchy comments about the habits of crew and their airlines punctuate the set and Reid certainly has charisma, but now I long to see Reid's talents given more freedom to roam outside of this very particular niche of character comedy.
Pam short-changed for a long-haul on this occasion and when I arrived at the end of the show's journey, given the over-familiarity of the material, I felt like I had never left.
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