Fairytales & fun: panto

Round & About

Your local theatres have a stockingful of pantomimes to delight family audiences (and some just for adults). Liz Nicholls rounds up some star-studded highlights to enjoy at a theatre near you this winter…

Pantomime elicits some very strong feelings. But, love it or loathe it, the art form – a beanstalk-like offshoot of the 16th century commedia dell’arte tradition – often represents youngsters’ first taste of theatre. And, here we are at the end of 2018, with theatres and stars near you preparing to give the year the happy ending this year needs.

Recently, some press has been given to the nature of fairytales and pantomimes not chiming at the right level of political correctness… However, that’s not stopping Michelle Gayle, who plays the Fairy Godmother in this year’s Cinderella at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud, from getting into the spirit… “Long before Disney realised you can entertain parents and children simultaneously, pantomime had figured out entertainment can work on two levels,” says the 47-year-old singer and actress. “Going to see a panto is such a lovely thing for the whole family to do together at Christmas. My family are really looking forward to coming – my son’s already asking how many friends he’s allowed to bring! And, to be honest, I’m particularly excited that I get to present Cinderella with a beautiful carriage drawn by real ponies! It’s going to be magical.”
You can catch Cinderella (which also stars Kit Hesketh-Harvey, Eagle Radio’s Peter Gordon and Nick Barclay as the Ugly Sisters and Jamie Brook between Friday, 7th December, and Sunday, 6th January. For tickets call 01483 440000 or visit www.yvonne-arnaud.co.uk

 Over at Theatre Royal Windsor Dick Whittington will celebrate 80 years of traditional panto fun with the help of Anne Hegerty (AKA “The Governess” from The Chase), Basil Brush, DJ Mike Read and comic Kevin Cruise, along with resident dame Steven Blakeley who will don a frock for his 10th year! Catch Dick Whittington up until Sunday, 6th January; to book call 01753 853888 or visit www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk

Paul Chuckle will star as Baron Hardup in Cinderella at Woking’s New Victoria Theatre. Paul says: “I’d like to thank everybody for their amazingly kind outpouring of love and support following the loss of our dear friend and my amazing brother, Barry. Panto was a huge part of our lives for over 50 years and I know Barry would want and expect the show to go on so I’m very happy to be starring in Cinderella in Woking this Christmas alongside our good friend Craig Revel Horwood. The three of us had a fantastic time doing panto last year and Craig and I are looking forward to going out there, getting started and doing this year’s panto in loving memory of Barry.” Cinderella is on between Friday, 7th December and Sunday, 6th January. Call 01483 545938.

Over in Bordon, The Phoenix Players are sharpening their arrows ready to present Robin Hood between 17th and 26th January, at The Phoenix. And, if you’d rather enjoy something adult, Puss In Boots, penned by Joshua Dixon, is an adults-only show full of “sauce and smut” on Friday, 21st December. For tickets call 01420 472664 or visit www.phoenixarts.co.uk

For a different kind of show again, some of the region’s skating talents will bring you Snow White On Ice at Guildford Spectrum between Friday, 14th and Sunday, 16th December. Call 01483 443322 or visit www.guildfordspectrum.co.uk

Head to mystical Leatherheadababa (AKA The Leatherhead Theatre) for Aladdin between Thursday, 20th and Sunday, 30th December; 01372 365141 or visit www.leatherheadtheatre.com. And Princes Hall Theatre in Aldershot invite you to be their guest with Beauty & the Beast – their “most spectacular pantomime yet” – between Friday, 7th and Monday, 31st December; call 01252 329 155 or visit www.princeshall.com. Beauty & The Beast is also the production at Dorking Halls, between 15th and 29th December, from the team behind last year’s record-breaking Sleeping Beauty; call 01306 881717 or visit www.dorkinghalls.co.uk. While Basingstoke’s Anvil Arts’ pantomime this year is Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs between Thursday, 13th December and Sunday, 6th January; call 01256 844244 or visit www.anvilarts.org.uk. Happy holidays!