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Thursday, 12 December 2019

REVIEW: Aladdin at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

It’s not very often a show can pick you up and transport you back to the happiest days of your childhood; infact it’s less than “not very often”, it’s incredibly rare and quite honestly, I don’t think it has ever happened to me quite like this before. As I left Woking’s New Victoria Theatre, I was beaming and full of nostalgia and joy. Pure childish happiness and Christmas cheer. What more could you want from a Pantomime?

Before this review, I would first like to share a little story. Circa 2001, my parents took me backstage at the New Victoria Theatre and I met Bobby Davro before a performance of Cinderella where Davro was playing ‘Buttons’. Despite only being six or seven years old at the time, I still remember him being exceptionally fast-talking, funny and kind. He filled my pockets with milky ways and smarties before the show as I wouldn’t be able to reach from the Royal Circle when he would later throw them across the stalls during the performance. Almost 20 years later, I was finally able to meet him again after this show and with tears in my eyes, I proclaimed I had been transported right back to that purely happy and innocent time thanks to him. He truly is the soul of this pantomime - a born entertainer and genuinely lovely man. I cannot advocate his performance enough. Bobby, thank you for your kind words and humble ways. I hope we meet again soon. 

REVIEW: Sleeping Beauty at the Watford Palace

Sleeping Beauty is an established pantomime title with a strong appeal to a young audience but each writer adopts a different approach to the one hundred year time travel that is central to the story so it was very interesting to see two of this year’s productions on the same day. The Watford Palace version was written by the brilliantly creative Andrew Pollard and the Alban Arena version, just 10 miles up the road by the equally reliable Paul Hendy. There could not be a more contrasting approach to the same story with Princess Aurora falling for a Prince before the evil fairy’s spell sends her into a deep sleep despite her nannie and father’s best efforts to prevent it. But there the similarities end!

At Watford the saviour is Fairy Fender, a lively personable performance from Thomas Fabian Parrish in a seventies wig and jump suit who happens to arrange time travel. We are first taken to 1957 to meet Vince Prince, an excuse for some Elvis Presley songs and impressions before going further back in time to 1539 and Aurora’s birth. By the time her eighteenth birthday arrives in 1557 the Princess, charmingly played by Nikita Johal has met both Prince (assuming he is an actual Prince) and Fender but Pestilentia Blight (as Caraboose is called) played by Arabella Rodrigo still delivers the fatal prick from within a giant 18th Birthday cake. Fender then mistakenly sends her forward 400 years with her father (Lenny VIII played by John Macneill) and her nanny (Fanny played by Richard Emerson) so the Prince can awaken her! The comedy is mainly delivered by Fanny (the Dame) and Leonie Spilsbury as Sowesta, a talking pig.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

REVIEW: Aladdin at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley

A marvelous Christmas present has arrived at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley in the shape of Christopher Biggins. As panto stars, TV presenters and ex boy/girl band members are all very well, but a proper panto deserves a proper panto star, which is what Biggins undoubtedly is.

His is a twinkly presence as Widow Twankey, appearing in a series of costumes and wigs ranging from the extravagant to the bizarre. He is effortlessly at ease with the audience. Indeed his first ‘scene’ is not really part of the show, just an informal chat identifying school groups, brownies and those celebrating birthdays. Throughout the show he totters about the stage and is both hilarious and a little vulnerable.

Monday, 9 December 2019

REVIEW: Whistle Down the Wind at the Union Theatre

The Union Theatre present their Christmas musical, the 1989 musical version of Whistle Down the Wind (not the Andrew Lloyd Webber one) based on the 1959 novel and 1961 film of the same name.

Cathy, Nan and Charles discover a mysterious man in their barn who they are convinced is Jesus Christ whilst the village is going crazy as there is a convict on the loose. The three children end up bringing all their friends to the barn to meet him whilst all keeping it a secret from the grown ups. In the end their father finds out about the man hiding in the barn and alerts the police however the children team up to form a barricade around the barn to stop the man being arrested, the barn gets set on fire and once distinguished the man has disappeared but there has been a cross painted on the wall. 

The story is all based around the children's belief into something they haven't any proof is true, which could be seen as a metaphor for religion as a whole. They give complete trust to this strange man who could have a dark history. 

Saturday, 7 December 2019

REVIEW: Goldilocks and Three Bears at the Kings Theatre, Edinburgh

Allan Stewart first appeared in Pantomime at Kings theatre in 1989 and this year is his 22nd consecutive year in the annual Pantomime and his Auntie May character has been established as one of the greats of Scottish Comedy . In this years Christmas production the story has been stripped back to the bear-est of plots, set in Auntie May's circus and creating the perfect location for a traditional variety show which felt like it had delved back into the archives for comedy routines. It works because it is not a one "woman" show but a great team effort with the help of Gillian Parkhouse as Goldilocks, Grant Stott as the evil Baron, Jordan Young as Joey the clown and the triumphant return of Andy Gray as the ringmaster Andy McReekie. These talented five work well together sharing the limelight and the laugh lines and creating plenty of opportunities for faux mistakes and corpsing. 

The design by Ian Westbrook is excellent creating the feel of the circus and the Greatest Show on Earth from the moment you step into the glorious Kings Theatre auditorium with its eighteen boxes festooned in fairy lights and the stage creating the inside of the big top for most scenes.
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