There was so much going for this show. The set was a model of what can be achieved at the Fringe – bright, colourful and looking far more solid than the usual shaky pillar and a few platforms. Costumes were superb – pantomime garb at its best and beautifully matched between the two performers with further links through the same pattern being used on the set. Technically, the show was ambitious but successfully so, with one of the performers also taking on the technician role.
It would be good to namecheck the anonymous set and costume designer, and the versatile actor playing Billy and acting as technician, but I can’t because there was no programme, there were very few names on the flyer and no link to further information on the Fringe website. Dame Dolly Donut, I am guessing, was played by writer (and director perhaps?) Steve Boyce. I do know that the musical arrangements were by Matthew Floyd Jones, although panto songs sung to a recorded soundtrack is a difficult trick to pull off.
Steve Boyce is a traditional Dame. On this occasion we were presented not with a pantomime but a selection of the Dame scenes from pantomime, well-delivered but indigestible when all placed together with no straight plot sections in between. I had thought this would have been a more adult offering, befitting the audience and the publicity, but this seemed halfway to a children’s show.
The show did take off from time to time, especially when Boyce went off-script or when the two performers were bouncing off each other – and the odd aside about pantomime worked better than the well-worn panto gags. For those to be successful, you need a different time of day and a more relaxed audience: in this slot the whole show needed to be more in the nature of a commentary on pantomime, as it was from time to time.
There is certainly a place for the pantomime genre at the Fringe, either in the form of a 1hr pantomime or something quite different but commenting on the genre, as in the one person play Twinkle Little Star of around 10 years ago or the one promised for later in the Fringe from another performer. It would be good to see the two performers in The Dame Dolly Donut Show return to the Fringe – and the topic of pantomime – but with more challenging and suitable material.