It’s panto season (Oh yes it is!)

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Poisoned apples, dashing princes, magic lamps or talking cats – which pantomime should YOU choose this Christmas?

ALL the major theatres in the area have their pantomimes ready for your cheering, booing and it’s-behind-you-ing, and now the choice is between distance, cost and which stars you most want to see. In the ten shows in (relatively easy) distance, audiences have a choice of three Snow Whites and 21 dwarfs, two Cinderellas, one Aladdin, one Dick Whittington, one Goldilocks, one Peter Pan and one Sleeping Beauty, so most of the big panto stories are covered!
The cost of living crisis has really hit most of us in recent months, and travel may feel even more difficult this year. But it’s still important to take your children to see live performances of these traditional stories in an atmosphere that can’t be captured on film.
It’s the only theatre where audience noise is actively encouraged, with lots of chances to hiss, boo, cheer and generally join in – and it’s also an opportunity to dress up in your finery. Kids at pantomimes often look as colourful and glittery as the fairy princesses on stage.
Most of us get our first experience of live theatre at the pantomime, and if it weaves its colourful magic effectively, it can set a path for the rest of your theatre-going life.

The best loved pantomime of all is Cinderella, the story of a kind child whose mother has died and whose father has remarried, saddling her with a selfish stepmother and two ghastly and ugly sisters. When she is invited to Prince Charming’s ball, the sisters tear up her invitation. Of course, being panto, it all comes out right in the end.
This year the ever-popular duo of Gordon Cooper and Jack Glanville lead the Evolution show’s move from the traditional Octagon setting to Westlands, while the town centre venue awaits its refit. The panto opens on 8th December and runs to 31st, with several matinees and morning shows as well as evening performances.
The other Cinders is at Wimborne Tivoli, where the show is on from 15th December to 1st January and the stars are Luke Atwood and Brandon Nicholson as the sisters, Lucia-Jade Barker as Cinderella, Courtney Jackson as the Fairy Godmother and Lee Redwood as Buttons.

Dick Whittington
This is the earliest show – it started on 25th November and is running to 7th January at Salisbury Playhouse – and Will Carey takes the title role. While pantomime is often the first experience of live theatre for a child, sometimes it is the professional debut for young actors, too; that is the case for Olivia Hewitt-Jones who is playing the feisty heroine, Alice Fitzwarren. But while Dick Whittington will be her first pro panto, Olivia is no stranger to the traditional Christmas show – her father Brian was a pantomime producer for years and her mother, actress Amanda Bairstow, acted in them. Alongside Will and Olivia are Lindo Shinda as Cosmo the Cat, Will Jennings as King Percy Rat and David Rumelle as Sarah the Cook.

Snow White
Another orphaned child pursued by a wicked stepmother, Snow White is saved by the efforts of seven dwarfs. It will be on stage at Bournemouth Pavilion (2nd to 31st December) and Weymouth Pavilion (13th to 31st December) and also at Southampton Mayflower, probably the biggest and grandest theatre in the region, from 9th to 31st December, where the stars are Salisbury-born Christopher Biggins and Ashley Banjo and Diversity.
Bournemouth’s show has Su Pollard, Noel Brodie and Jamie Steen in the leading roles, and at Weymouth you can see George Sampson and Jamie Riding.

Aladdin
Poole’s pantomime is Aladdin, starring the popular Chris Jarvis as Widow Twankey, with the eagerly-awaited return of Andrew Pollard and Alim Javardi, (who were named as the UK’s best pantomime duo for last year’s Nadine and Doris) and also Melinda Messenger as the Spirit of the Ring.

Bath and Bristol
Neil McDermott joins the experienced duo of Jon Monie and Nick Wilton in Sleeping Beauty at Bath’s beautiful Theatre Royal from 7th December to 7th January. At another grand old Victorian theatre, Bristol Hippodrome, see David Suchet as Captain Hook in Peter Pan from 2nd to 31st December – it also stars Andy Ford and Faye Tozer.
Book your tickets and get your glad rags on and prepare to shout IT’S BEHIND YOU at the tops of your voices.

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