Shouting “it’s behind you” to the worst of the pandemic… or are we?

Pantomime is traditionally a Christmas entertainment, but you could be forgiven for thinking that the whole of the past 21 months has been a bit of a panto, with mistaken identities, inflated promises and false starts.

Unless some new news of fresh variants with
their vividly coloured spikes emerges, and the governmental response is more cautious than populist, all is set for a return to (almost) normal on the Christmas show front, with our local theatres preparing for the happy shouts of “It’s behind you” and “O no it isn’t” ringing out from children and their adults.

The shows that finance the rest of the theatrical year are in rehearsal, and celebrities, TV stars
and local favourites are preparing to meet their public in the ever popular stories with their heroes, villains, knockabout comics and time-honoured slapstick routines, peppered with current pop songs and snatched dance video moments.

Across our area there are shows to suit most tastes, from the traditional to the quirkily modern. Expect jokes about PCR tests, bumbling brokers men called Track and Trace, and (hopefully) badly-thatched, pompously blustering landowners promising the moon and demanding obedience and adulation. There are few things more heartening than to

watch a child’s face at their first pantomime, where the magic comes to life at the same time as they are encouraged to shout, squeal and join in the fun. Theatres across Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire have devised an exciting menu of shows for all the family:

Yeovil’s Octagon

Audiences are delighted that three of the venue’s favourite panto stars are back on stage for Mother Goose, which runs from 3rd December to 2nd January. Gordon Cooper, Jack Glanville and Lizzie Frances star in Paul Hendy’s new version of the story of the woman who was so worried about how she looked that she (almost) lost all her friends. But it’s a pantomime and that means we all live happily ever after.

Weymouth Pavilion

From 11th December to 2nd January, audiences will get taken for a ride – on Aladdin’s magic carpet from Old Peking. Our hero escapes the clutches of his wicked uncle Abanazar and rubs the magic lamp, but all is not well until the very end of the show, when riches and happiness come to him and his mother, the redoubtable Widow Twankey.

Bath

This holiday season you can see the all-time favourite show Cinderella in the beautiful Theatre Royal from 16th December to 9th January.
Or for the younger audience, Five Children and It is in the Egg, the adjoining children’s performance space, from 10th December to 16th January. Grown-ups might like the spoof comedy A Christmas Getaway in the Ustinov Studio, a brand new seasonal story by New Old Friends.

Bristol

The Old Vic has the Wardrobe Ensemble’s version of Robin Hood, on now until 8th January. As always, the city’s “alternative” show is at the Tobacco Factory. OZ, a new look at Dorothy and the yellow brick road, is on stage from 10th December to 16th January.

Poole

Beauty and the Beast is the Lighthouse’s first ‘home grown’ production in many years, and is based on the brilliant Andrew Pollard show that started life in Salisbury in 2018, with a few “Poole” tweaks. It stars Michelle Collins, Chris Jarvis, and Wade Lewin, (who was in Bridgerton) as the Beast. It’s on from 9th to 31st December.

Wimborne Tivoli

Sleeping Beauty runs from 17th December to 2nd January, stars Alex Anstey, Chris Casey, Courtney Jackson, Tegen Jones and Sophie Lee-Stevens. If it’s big names you crave, travel further for Joe Pasquale as Wishee Washee in Aladdin at Plymouth, Lesley Joseph and Rob Rinder in Snow White at Bristol Hippodrome or Craig Revel Horwood in Cinderella at Southampton Mayflower.

by Gay Pirrie-Weir

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