After three years, panto season is back with no restrictions. The FTR’s Gay Pirrie-Weir has rounded up your pantomime options this year
It’s pantomime and Christmas show time again, with a full house for the first time since the pandemic, and some changes to the traditional timings. Several productions are starting earlier than usual – Panto was a Christmas Eve thing once!
As always, some theatres rely on big stars of television and stage to bring in their audiences, while others have learned that regulars are what brings families back year after year. The stories, of course, are the old favourites, with their happy endings, heroes and villains, comic baddies, a fat man in a frock (aka The Dame) and lots of chances for the audience to join in, hiss, boo and shout It’s Behind You until they’re hoarse.
Often reckoned to be the most popular story of all, Cinderella’s reputation is borne out this year with three productions. See it at Bristol
Hippodrome with Craig Revel Horwood, from 2nd to 31st December. It’s at Poole Lighthouse from 8th to 31st December, and is ‘traditional pantomime fun, with plenty of songs, laughter and more magic and sparkle than you can shake a wand at’. Starring sitcom star Tyger Drew-Honey, making his panto debut as Prince Charming and Lighthouse favourite Chris Jarvis.
Salisbury Playhouse started early on 26th November and are running to 8th January: ‘This year’s Cinderella is packed with songs to sing along to, plenty of adventure, sparkle and laughs (for youngsters and their grown ups!) with this rags to riches tale. It’s a festive treat for all the family – do not miss out.’
The one about the lazy son of Widow Twankey who falls in love with a princess, but is duped by his wicked uncle into going into a dark cave full of treasure, where he meets a genie who can answer all his dreams. Aladdin is on stage at Bath Theatre Royal from 8th December to the 8th January, with favourite performers Jon Monie and Nick Wilton joined by Tom Lister. Aladdin is also at Wimborne Tivoli from 16th December to 1st January.
Beauty, Dick and The Nutcracker
Beauty and the Beast has been chosen by Bournemouth Pavilion – starring Emma Barton, it runs from 3rd December to 2nd January.
At Yeovil Octagon, old favourites Thom Ford, Gordon Cooper and Jack Glanville are back to tell the story of Dick Whittington, the boy who left the west country to go to London to find his fortune. Of course, he falls in love with the boss’s daughter, but then has to rely on his super-hero cat to help him rid the city of a plague of rats, before heading off on board ship to an island full of treasures (and foreign rats too). It’s on from 9th December to 1st January.
Further afield you can see Jason Donovan leading the cast in Goldilocks and the Three Bears at Southampton’s Mayflower from 10th to 31st December, or something different at Bristol Old Vic, where the show is The Nutcracker, from 24th November to 7th January. It stars Tristan Sturrock and musician Gwyneth Herbert, and is ‘a bold and wild theatrical re-telling of The Nutcracker, full of magic, adventure and show-stopping music numbers’.
Tickets for all the Christmas productions are selling fast, so it really is necessary to book early if you don’t want to disappoint the family. Not only is the annual pantomime the ‘banker’ for theatres going through difficult times, but it is the perfect way to introduce young audiences to the joy of live performance, especially as it’s the one time they are positively encouraged to join in and make noise.
Oh yes it is!