It Takes Four to Tango with Panto

Wed 24th – Sun 28th August 2011


Dominic Sowa

at 12:09 on 26th Aug 2011



The Edinburgh People’s Theatre is the oldest theatre group to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe and it is happily celebrating its 53rd anniversary. The group has an illustrious festival history and its own website calls the 50s and 60s their most successful period as a group. Watching their double bill production of It Takes Four To Tango With Panto, it is self evident that their days of glory are far behind them. Although funny and entertaining, the group definitely is past their heyday and rather than presenting cutting edge and moving theatre, puts on shows the like of It Takes Four that panders to the escapist desires of older generations.

To get to the play itself, the audience member must casually stroll through the corridors of a church, passing by the generally amassed congregation to enter a wave of grey hairs and no hairs. To be below 60 is to be below the average audience member age. This certainly sets the mood for the experience. With a definite village hall atmosphere to the venue, watching the play fills you with a strange feeling of cosy familiarity and chummy belonging that is more suitable to The Vicar of Dibley than to Edinburgh.

The play is a actually two separate plays - I would loosely call them scenes - that follow the antics of the Newington Amateur Dramatics Society as they prepare for the performance of two shows. The slight excitement and possible whiff of postmodernist influence upon hearing that it is a play about a play is lost quickly once the actors come on stage. Nothing about this play is groundbreaking or thought provoking but simply an escapist farce. This play is so kitsch you could overdose on the saccharine nature of it. It is a play that is set in Newington and physically is performed in Newington; you’re not supposed to be moved in any way but rather coddled into a pantomime experience which is supposed to feel familiar and safe.

The play develops in a predictable manner and frequently flags and drags as too much time is placed onto squeezing every available laugh from the rind of a joke. The characters stumble into jokes so obvious there seem to be massive billboard sign guiding them to them. However it must be said some quips are utterly funny and golden, particularly the witty one liners of Graham Bell’s character, Gordon and the snarky moments of Ludovico Rizza’s morose yet loveable Bernard. The play is funny, but it has all the elements of a panto without the whiff of Christmas cheer about it.

You definitely feel your age watching this, (or actually lack of age). Songs from the golden age of musical theatre play between scene changes, tea is served at the interval and contemporary references feel out of place. If you are a saucy old lady hoping to laugh with other old ladies about jokes relating to “loins”, if you get my drift, and you desire to work off some sexual frustration in a respectable manner then see this. Otherwise don’t bother.


Helen Catt

at 12:34 on 26th Aug 2011



After 53 years, Edinburgh People's Theatre has garnered a strong core of fans, and I doubt any review I could give would change any of their opinions. I'm glad about this, because “It Takes Four to Tango with Panto” was a comedy that unfortunately didn't quite resonate with me. I could tell, however, by the delighted guffaws of the audience that I was in the minority here.

The style of the comedy slipped between slapstick and the innocently crude humour reminiscent of the Carry On films of the sixties in a way that didn't appeal to me, perhaps because I'm not so much part of the generation that grew up with this style of humour as many of the audience did. However, I did find myself laughing at Graham Bell's (Gordon) deadpan delivery of some terrifically funny lines.

This is an amateur production, and as such it can hardly be expected to have the same slick polish as the more professional shows on the Fringe, but the actors worked well together, and the performance had a charm of it's own. There is a very strong feeling of community about the whole experience, particularly in the free tea and biscuits at the interval.

It seems a pity to give the performance a low star rating, as I was aware through the performance that my experience of the play was very different to the majority of the audience. Unfortunately, at ten pounds a ticket, I had to judge it against other shows at a similar price, and for me, “It Takes Four to Tango with Panto” fell short. However, I don't think I have ever seen an audience more on the performers' side than the audience here. Edinburgh People's Theatre, after all, isn't looking to be the stars of the Fringe. It's ambition is more to be a thriving amateur dramatic society - the programme says it all; “a great way to spend your free time, make new friends and have some fun”. And it achieved this ambition admirably. So if you are looking for the next big thing at the Fringe, this is probably something you want to pass on. However, if you want to become part of a lively community and have fun, then this is the perfect show for you.


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