Addenbrooke’s Panto: Star Wards
Non-medic Star Wars virgin CHLOE COLEMAN and fallen-medic TIM SQUIRRELL venture to Anglia Ruskin and find out that medics can be funny too – all in the name of charity.
Anglia Ruskin Mumford Theatre, 7.30pm, Tues 19th – Sat 23rd Nov, £12/6.50
Before we begin, four caveats: firstly, this is not the ADC. Second, it doesn’t pretend to be the ADC. Third, it’s made by clinical medics, who will tell us at every opportunity that they are very busy people. Finally, it’s for charity.
This was a really fun performance. That’s probably the best metric for whether a pantomime is worth going to; you don’t exactly go for high impact drama or subtly nuanced comedy. The entire show is packed full of more innuendos than a Carry On film – the website certainly wasn’t being overly cautious when it suggested not bringing children. The majority of the performance is pure filth, and it revels in it. There are gags about anal sex, sadomasochism, anal sex, incest and anal sex. The standard pantomime fare of gender bending is ramped up to eleven, and it’s great.
I am not a medic. Nor, indeed, have I seen Star Wars. The concept of Star Wards, then, was more than a little lost on me. In order to interpret, I brought with me Tim, who was once a medic and is at least partly nerdy, or at least enough to appreciate the majority of the jokes.
It’s very much a show that knows its audience and caters to them very well. There’s a non-medics’ glossary at the back of the programme, and you’ll need it. It’s a bit like having a joke explained to you and laughing in retrospect, but it’s still pretty great to feel included (I’ve never felt included). References abound to pre-clinical medicine, clinical medicine, famous (and infamous) fellows and medical BNOCs. The contemporary jokes which pantomime is famous for are also all present, including references to Somalia and the Robin Thicke debacle, so not everything went over my head. The ten minute period when Bob Whittaker (a famous anatomy guy, I’m told – thanks Tim) was dragged on stage and forced to flirt with one of the cast members went down very well with the audience, but I was made to feel like the only arts student in the building, which was certainly unusual for a theatre.
The show had a number of first night issues, not least the fact that most of the target audience are likely going on Friday or Saturday and so a lot of the medical references didn’t quite catch on. There were also some sound problems, with the sheer scale of the ensemble pieces meaning that often the words of songs were sacrificed for visual effect. Ironically, this was partly due to how incredibly good the orchestra was, to the extent that they sometimes muffled the chorus and made it difficult to understand some of the songs, an issue that I’m sure can be rectified with a few tech adjustments.
There were some real gems amongst the actors, with dominatrix drag queen Darth Vagus (Tim Old) and a delightfully French Jean Solo (Sam Bostock) taking more than their fair share of belly laughs. The fact that so many of the cast managed to put on such spirited performances without spending their entire lives at the ADC is testament to the hard work that went into this show. Most importantly, they all looked like they were having fun, and the audience did too.