REVIEW: The Clinical Trials of Hercules

Apparently, medics can be funny too

Cambridge Theatre medics panto student theatre

Now in its 25th year, the annual Addenbrookes Charity Pantomime serves up fun, laughter and an all-round entertaining show. Join the clinical medics on a Greek odyssey through treacherous territory (well, The Cambridge Clinical School) as they attempt to pass the clinical trials and become real doctors. 

More than anything, this was a really, really fun show. Pantomime isn’t about tense drama or subtle comedy, a Pantomime should be packed with jokes, slapstick and plenty of innuendo. All of which The Clinical Trials of Hercules delivers in heaps.

The unlikely mix of medics and theatre

Great acting, great dancing and great singing are all on show in the panto with a superb performance by all the cast. Sushmita Ramanujam strikes the perfect balance as Hercules capturing a real warmth to the character that certainly makes the audience fall in love with this downtrodden hero. Radhika Bali also has a good performance as Meg although the character isn’t nearly as inherently likeable as Hercules.

A panto would be nothing without a great dame and a great villain and this is something Hercules certainly gets right. Tom Hargreaves is a fantastic dame as Haemophila and is everything a dame should be, bringing wit and innuendo which really keeps the show rolling whilst not overshadowing the main hero. Aurelien Gueroult is also amazing as the fabulously evil Hadean, Dean of the Anglia Ruskin Medical School. With a strong stage presence and precise delivery, he brings a certain edge to a character which might otherwise be a stereotypical Pantomime villain. Hadean is supported by his motley crew of minions of which a special mention goes to Stephen Woodmansey and Shivi Saggar as Dr Andrew Wakefield and Prof. Brian Cox respectively, with Dr Wakefield providing an endless stream of stats related jokes (who knew statistics could be funny?).

Hercules is backed up by exceptional singing and dancing troupes which really don’t get as much stage time as they deserve with the exception of the Act 2 Medley. The songs were a real highlight to the show and showed off some amazing talent. The orchestra also can’t be forgotten with an amazing performance and no hint of first-night nerves. Good direction really brings all these elements together in some absolutely cracking musical numbers.

Warning: Panto villians may appear scarier in real life

The technical side of the performance is well delivered with great lighting and sound mixing and no first-night hitches. The simple painted set backdrops really help in setting the scene without overpowering the action on stage.

Admittedly, the script was sometimes let down by the lack of a tight plot. Especially in Act 2, the plot became very formulaic and predictable which really undermines the ending. Although the title says ‘Hercules’ the show seemed to forgo this theme in favour of a more standard ‘Hero saves girl, defeats villain’ plot.

Apparently, doing a medicine degree doesn’t actually destroy your sense of humour- rejoice!

However, this being said, the script was packed with so much wit and jokes it’s difficult to know where to begin and its hard to imagine how much time and effort the writers must have put in to create such a funny show. The jokes were genuinely funny to both medics and non-medics alike and would seriously rival anything the Footlights might have to offer. The show is also absolutely filthy. I can’t think of any other subject/department which would have the boldness to portray its head (The Clinical Dean, Diana Wood) as the weed-smoking hippie, Diana Woodstock.

Unfortunately, all tickets for the remaining shows are sold out however those lucky enough to be heading down to the Mumford Theatre this week can expect a great night out packed with fun. A strong performance not to be missed as well as supporting some worthwhile charities.

4/5 Stars