Theatre: The truth about swans and ducks
HONK! THE UGLY DUCKLING NT OLIVIER LONDON
Saturday 18 December 1999
. This very upmarket panto - directed with exhilarating vim, bounce and impeccable timing by Julie McKenzie - is a lot more fun than Ibsen's Wild Duck or TV's The Bill, ducky and, as you can see, its determination to get in every animal pun imaginable is catching. Set on a giant bullrush- fringed pond, Honk! pulls off the considerable trick of delighting children and winking wickedly at adults simultaneously.
The outrageous bits were more to my taste than the faintly sanctimonious numbers where we were assured of every creature's right to be different, as though we were at a concert by Barbra Streisand (whose films are a continual re-make of this story). The bits where the show hits sublimety are those involving Jasper Britton's brilliantly funny Cat, who definitely puts the purr in pervey with his Salvador Dali whiskers, spats, pin-stripes and distinctly dubious liking for young duck flesh. ("The macrame classes seem to have paid off," he camply insinuates on encountering Ugly trapped in a giant net). And one's feathers stand on end with joy when David Burt's grinning bespectacled Bullfrog (a cross between Christopher Biggins and Max Miller) officiates at a bullfrog dance routine that brings on the whole cast in tight-fitting pond-life outfits.
In rep, 0171-452 3000. A version of this review appeared in later editions of yesterday's newspaper
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