“A terrific example of how a good college pantomime should be: whimsical, filled with humour and also a good amount of heart!

“Tonight is the night the Grinch stole Cuthsmas.”

Cue the hooting, booing and clicking of glasses from the audience. ‘The Grinch’ – a Christmas panto from St Cuthbert Society’s 12 South Theatre is a terrific example of how a good college pantomime should be: whimsical, filled with humour and also a good amount of heart! It’s also worth noting that the panto has a charitable cause as well – a third of the proceeds go to Ouseburn Farm.

The panto is simply a Cuth’s spin on the cult tale of how the Grinch stole Christmas, but it’s well written (by Jack Simmonds) and directed (Cole Perelmutur & Hannah Staddon). Blending the Grinch into the city of Durham is an ingenious idea, opening doors for plenty of gags on the housing crisis, renaming the city to ‘Cuthsville’, joking about the JCR levy and Michaelmas Ball, the Grinch’s evil plan to infest the Bailey with rats and even calling him ‘The Beast of Gilegate’! It is just pure fun and totally relatable as well. Despite being on a college budget, the musical numbers are well-done and well-written. There is a spin on the popular “I’m Just Ken” zinger which is enjoyable, and the Christmas spirit is intact with another spin on a famous song. Good singing (surprisingly!) coupled with a lot of goofy dancing is simply the icing on the cake. Being a Cuth’s play, the college traditions are also sprinkled across – such as refreshments being passed around the audience or the panto ending with Cuth’s customary song (mince pies to anybody who guesses it). I am surprised to see the actors remember so many lines given how *spirited* they are by the end of the performance. Certain swear words are apparently meant to be censored, and it is amusing to see how the cast tries to tread around this rule only to fail miserably.

Simmons also helms the role of The Grinch, and is, without doubt, born to play the role. He is eccentric and possesses the manic energy the character demands. He also stays in character throughout the show, calling out people when they miss lines. In one segment a dissing contest begins, with an audience member that leaves everyone in splits. There is plenty of improv comedy as well, courtesy of Max (played by Luca Zimmerman). It’s quite clear that he’s just having a ball in this role as the main character’s pet dog, woofing around and ‘doing his business’ in places we won’t name. Eli Fuller also stands out as Martha May, with over-the-top acting that the character demands and the occasional ‘gasp!’ in comic fashion. The scenes between the Mayor (Monty Heseltine) and his Deputy (Theo Richardson) are also pretty funny to watch, coupled with a lot of cake-smashing and improv lines. All the other supporting characters play their roles aptly and credit must go to the narrator (Rosie Parkin) for a lot of on-the-spot rhyming which lands well. There is some real talent here!

The sound design and lighting are also well done, props to Yumnah Awan and Anna Forde. The costume design and set design is also adequate, given that the cast constantly jokes about the budget. If I had to nitpick slightly, some of the witty dialogues could have landed better with nuanced acting and/or voice modulation – but hey it’s a panto! All things said, ‘The Grinch’ was just the kind of mindless entertainment and spirit to welcome the Christmas season.

So what are you waiting for? Quickly grab a Grinch-themed drink from the Cuth’s bar and go on over for some goofy fun, frolic and so much more!

(P.S. This review was written by a fellow ‘Cuthsie’ so it may or may not be biased. You’ll never know!)

By Akash Sivakumar

12 South Theatre’s (Cuthberts Society’s) Pantomine – The Grinch, will show one more on the 3rd of December at 20:00 in Cuthberts’ College