Fanny Charles has given you a round up of two local Christmas shows which are still happening – and perfect family fun.
Oh yes, you will! So, it’s not panto as we know it, but both Salisbury Playhouse and Yeovil’s Octagon Theatre are serving up Christmas shows which are a total delight. Salisbury’s Little Robin Redbreast is very much aimed at a young (probably seven and under) audience, while Yeovil’s Nurse Nellie Saves Panto has a much wider age range, and hits the spot with everyone from tinies to grannies.
Little Robin Redbreast, by Wiltshire Creative and Salisbury Playhouse artistic director Gareth Machin and composer Glyn Kerslake, is a reworking of a successful Christmas show in the theatre’s Salberg Studio a few years ago. It is a simple story of little Robin (Ryan Heenan) who can’t wait to be old enough to fly. The tale is told with just four performers, mother (Bernadette Bangura), father (Dan Smith) and Robin’s bossy, tap-dancing sister (Philippa Hogg), all playing multiple parts, with a connecting thread of an Advent calendar – as each day’s window opens, the action moves on.
It is colourful, touching, charming and has just enough adventure to keep even the youngest children absorbed, without frightening a nervous toddler, perhaps having a first ever visit to the theatre.
The Playhouse team do a great job maintaining the Covid-19 restrictions, with timed entries, alternative rows of seats removed, refreshments served at little tables at your seats, and the whole show takes barely an hour. It is time very happily spent.
Yeovil’s Octagon panto is always one of the best in the West Country, and three of its regular leading performers – Gordon Cooper, Jack Glanville and Thom Ford – have been working together for several years. This is a great bonus for the Nurse Nellie Saves Panto show and for the audience, who are familiar with Gordon’s hilarious Dames, Jack’s brilliant (and sometimes wince-inducing) jokes and Thom’s increasingly villainous but always dashing baddies. He also does a mean Queen routine.
This year the hero is the heroine, Jill (Evelyn Hoskins) who is determined that the wicked Prof von Badapple (Ford) will not steal the essence of pantomime. With her mother, Nurse Nellie (Cooper) and brother Billy (Glanville), and the magical assistance of southern belle Fairy Moonshot (Kathryn Nash), she must brave the terrors of the evil genius’s underground labour and giant robot.
At just over an hour, Nurse Nellie Saves Panto is packed with jokes, great comedy routines, music, magic and mayhem, and runs to 3rd January. The Octagon is a big theatre, and with seating spaced and in alternate rows, it feels very safe.