Cracking highlight: The Nutcracker in Farnham

Round & About

Christmas Surrey

Story Pocket Theatre bring their entertaining family-friendly version of The Nutcracker to Farnham Maltings later this month.

Christmas Eve is here and Clara has just been given a wooden nutcracker in the shape of a handsome Prince. Little does she know she and her brother Fritz are about to be drawn into the adventure of a lifetime.

The Mouse Queen has stolen the magic of the Christmas Tree star and the whole Land of Make Believe itself is in danger. The children, a host of toys and the Nutcracker Prince himself, must battle the rotten royal rodent to save the magic of Christmas and restore the Prince to the throne. But first, Clara and Fritz must learn how to believe…

The Story Pocket Theatre team are back at Farnham Maltings with a colourful and high-energy new version of The Nutcracker. A sparkling new adaptation of Christmas story that has thrilled and delighted children for generations promises seasonal magic and wonder. The colourful, spectacular and fun-filled show has been produced by the award-winning team behind the success of Arabian Nights, A Pocketful of Grimms, Storyteller, Storyteller, Michael Morpurgo’s King Arthur and, most recently, David Baddiel’s ANiMALCOLM.

Will Clara and Fritz learn how to believe, and save Christmas and the Land of Make Believe? Well to find out catch The Nutcracker from Thursday, 20th December, 2.30pm & 4.30pm, Friday 21st & 22nd, 11.30am & 2.30pm at Farnham Maltings, Bridge Square, GU9 7QR. To buy your tickets, £10, call 01252 745444 or visit

Peter Anderson

Market forces: crafty shopping in Godalming

Round & About

Christmas Surrey

Two creative Godalming locals have set up a local market to showcase local craftspeople and help make your Christmas shopping fun!

Danielle Giornandi and Laura Goddings wanted to bring something to Godalming that would reinvigorate the high street and give something fellow locals could get excited about.

Coming from backgrounds in humanitarianism, art history, jewellery design, event design and management, and sales they realised they had the right skill set for this kind of venture to be successful.

Danielle says: “One day over coffee, Laura said ‘hey, that old little shed is up for rent, shall we see it?’ ‘Yes!’ I said, though we had no idea what we were looking at or why. The moment we went in, the space just spoke to us and we both spontaneously had the same idea – to have a kind of brick-and-mortar Etsy, permanent contemporary craft fair promoting independent artists and creatives. Throwing caution to the wind, we put in a bid…and we got it!”

The pair’s idea has grown into an amazing venture with more than 40 artists, almost all local, renting a little space, specifically sized and designed for them and their type of products.

“We’re excited to provide Surrey residents with high-quality, unique, handmade goods created by independent artisans and producers,” adds Laura. “In an age when the high streets are dominated by chains and mass-produced products, we pride ourselves on representing and working for  both the artists and the consumers. With the rise of online shopping, our high streets have taken a huge hit. We want to re-establish the relationship between consumer and producer, as well as reigniting that tactile and sensory experience a shopper has when they find a product in a shop – something that cannot be reproduced online.”

More than 150 people attended the opening party in October. “Everyone that’s come through the doors has been so surprised and pleased that something exciting like this has come to Godalming. We look forward to a successful Christmas shopping period, highlighted by events such as the Godalming Christmas Lights Festival and Late Night Shopping Evenings with Prosecco. We are determined to make Yard Market more than just a shop, but an exciting and vibrant community creative space.”

Wintershall wonder: Nativity play in Bramley

Round & About

Christmas Surrey

Peter Anderson tells us why we should celebrate the Christmas story with Wintershall Players in Bramley between 12th and 16th December.

The Christmas story began just over 2,000 years ago in a barn in Palestine, and once again this year visitors will flock to a barn in Surrey to see that magnificent story unfold once again before their eyes. The Nativity has become a much-anticipated fixture of the Christmas season, performed by the Wintershall Players.

A volunteer cast of 50 in biblical costumes, assisted by a full complement of sheep, donkeys, horses and a sheepdog, will take the audience on foot from the chill open air into the atmospheric, candle-lit barn, as the story of how Jesus changed the world unfolds with songs and music and joyful carolling.

The Wintershall Nativity once again brings the story to life in natural beauty of the rolling Surrey hills, as it has since the late 1980s. The extraordinary story of these productions has its modest beginnings in Medjugorje, Bosnia, visited by Ann Hutley and her daughter Charlotte in the mid-1980s. The visit changed their lives. Peter joined Ann on a visit in 1989.

He wrote and produced the original production in the barn in 1989, and since then the audience has grown from a small group of friends, to last year when over six thousand people saw the performances. The Wintershall Nativity is now produced by his daughter, Charlotte de Klee who had travelled with her mother to see that show in Bosnia.

Peter Hutley whose concept this was, has been awarded both an OBE and an MBE for his work promoting Christian understanding, and it is not just the nativity play for the Wintershall cast also come together to perform the Passion of Christ at Easter, at Wintershall, Guildford and Trafalgar Square, but also an epic Life of Christ at Wintershall during the summer. In 2011, her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II awarded the Wintershall cast, artistic director and support team the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.

This is a magical show to share with friends and family and a rare opportunity to experience the true meaning of Christmas. The Wintershall Nativity Play will be performed from the 12th to the 16th of December both inside and outside of Holly Barn at Wintershall in Bramley near Guildford. There is free parking and visitors are encouraged to wrap up warmly and mince pies and hot drinks will be available before and after the show.

For further information, please visit

Where’s Santa?

Round & About

Christmas Surrey

Father Christmas is very busy this month finding out who’s been naughty or nice! Here’s where you can catch him (remember, he’s magic so can be in lots of places at once!)

Saint Nicholas, AKA Santa, will be in his own sitting room at Hatchlands Park near East Clandon on the first, second and fourth weekends of December, 11am-3.30pm. £5 per visit per child, including a present. On the third weekend, Mrs Christmas will fill his boots! For further information visit

At Denbies Wine Estate near Dorking, children can take a train ride to see Santa and his elves in his cellar and receive a present and sticker book. £8.25 per child, no lower age limit. For £3, adults can join them on the train to much mince pies and browse craft goodies.

He will visit Haslemere Museum on Sunday, 2nd December, between 11am and 3pm as part of Haslemere Christmas Market. Little ones can tell him their wishes and receive a present for £3. He will return from Thursday 20th to Christmas Eve morning to chill in his Victorian parlour. £4 per child; visit

Over at Birdworld you can meet Santa’s reindeer and some of their friendly farm animals before you enter a magical world full of animated characters in winter wonderland settings. As you walk through the different scenes, enjoy friendly banter with the impish elves and meet Santa to claim your present! For full information and prices please visit

On certain days in December, Santa has instructed his elves to teach children some of their magic with fun craft workshops at Painshill Park near Cobham (with a present and a note from Santa at the end). £8.50 per child, suitable for children aged between two and eight and two adults can go with them for free. Visit

Over the first two weekends in December, you can go on a Santa hunt on the Swingbridge broadbeam boat for a gentle family cruise along the River Wey. The boat will depart from Millmead Island, looking for clues along the towpath while you enjoy mince pies and mulled wine before Santa hops on board with his sack of gifts for the return journey. It costs £10 for each under-16, £10 for an adult with a child and £35 for a family (two adults and two children). Search for Swingbridge Santa Cruises on Facebook or call 01483 444334.

Other family-friendly Christmas highlights include carols, songs & readings at Hatchlands Park on Sunday, 16th December, at 12pm & 2pm. There is also the Lost in a Book Georgian Christmas trail, daily between Saturday, 1st December and Sunday, 6th January, 10am-4pm when you can enjoy the trail through the parkland and follow the Boscawen family as they discover the story of Gulliver’s Travels. Call 01483 444334 or visit

Carols for Clandon will warm the family cockles at Holy Trinity Church in Guildford on Tuesday, 18th December, from 7.30pm. The Oxford Singers will deliver carols and readings to support Clandon Park. Adults £12, child £9; call 01483 444334 or visit

Wishful thinking: Richmond panto star

Round & About

Christmas Surrey

Amid a star-studded cast that also includes Robert Lindsay and Rachel Stanley, comedian Jon Clegg plays Smee in Aladdin, this year’s Richmond Theatre pantomime. We ask him some questions.

Q. How did you get into acting and who were your inspirations? “I got into acting through pantomime! I was working as a stand-up comedian and was told I should give panto a try. I’ve always loved comedy actors – probably Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson were my first inspiration, and Laurel and Hardy!”

Q. What was the first pantomime you remember seeing, and where? “I didn’t go to a pantomime until I was a teenager – how deprived is that?! But then my first panto was in Redhill, Surrey, and starred the lady from the Shake’n’Vac ads.”

Q. What was your first panto role? “I played Wishee Washee in Aladdin, at the Tameside Hippodrome in Ashton Under Lyme near Manchester. I was alongside Hunter from the Gladiators [James Crossley], Irene from Home and Away [Lynn McGrainger], and the vicar from Dad’s Army [Frank Williams].”

Q. What do you enjoy about playing panto? “It’s great to work with a cast of fabulous actors – I do solo stand-up work the rest of the year. And it’s great fun, entertaining an audience full of beaming children is a real pleasure!”

Q. Is there a role on your wish list you would love to play one Christmas? “I love playing the comedy role in pantomime. Buttons was always on my wish list, and I have been fortunate to play that role three times now!”

Q. I imagine performing in panto can be quite intense, with a lot of days with more than one performance. How do you relax off stage? “It is intense, but it’s also incredibly enjoyable and rewarding. I enjoy long walks, eating out and watching sport when I’m not on the stage.”

Q. Is this the first time you have appeared at Richmond? “Yes, it’s my first time at Richmond. I came to see panto here 10 years ago, when I was in Brighton, as a friend was in the show. Paul Zerdin and Nigel Havers were the stars. They were brilliant, and two years later I worked with Nigel in Peter Pan at the Hawth Theatre in Crawley.”

Q. Peter Pan is set on an island. If you were stranded on an island which three people living, historic or fictional would you like to have with you and why?
“Firstly, my wife (of course!) along with Winston Churchill and Anthony Kiedis (lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers)”.

  • Peter Pan is on at Richmond Theatre between Saturday, 8th December & Sunday, 6th January. Other Christmas shows worth catching include Snow White at the Palladium and 42nd Street at Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

Fairytales & fun: panto

Round & About

Christmas Surrey

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

 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

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

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

Head to mystical Leatherheadababa (AKA The Leatherhead Theatre) for Aladdin between Thursday, 20th and Sunday, 30th December; 01372 365141 or visit 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 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 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 Happy holidays!

Craig Revel Horwood: Strictly panto star

Round & About

Christmas Surrey

Craig Revel Horwood shares his thoughts on Strictly, his varied schedule and meeting his wax twin.

Q: We have heard about your waxwork doppelganger in Blackpool – what was it like meeting him? A: “It was quite bizarre, seeing another me because no one ever sees themselves three dimensionally like that! It was so lifelike it was ridiculous. My mum was there and she couldn’t tell us apart! We had the launch in Blackpool Tower. Of course the last time I’d been there was with Strictly and they had spotlights on it in the centre of the ballroom, six dancing girls and fireworks…it was incredible!”

Q: Are you looking forward to playing the Wicked Stepmother in the panto Cinderella at Woking’s New Victoria theatre? A: “I do feel like I’ve come full circle, I just wish I was as beautiful as I was 30 years ago! You have to look after yourself as you can’t go off partying the whole time… but it’s fantastic, it keeps me thin all the way through Christmas! [Pantomime} is an introduction for children to live theatre and as live theatre is my passion I really encourage that. It also teaches children generally about theatre, which I think is the most important thing about doing panto. Coming to the theatre is a unique and individual experience and you can interact with the cast too… it’s great!”

Q: You seem to have a hectic schedule, do you? “I’m working on material now for Christmas 2020. It is crazy! As for Strictly  I still get very excited and very nervous when I hear the opening music… It’s a whole new bunch of people, a whole new cast each time, so it’s always fresh. Seeing people who’ve never danced before realising dance can actually be taught.. and just seeing the enjoyment that people get out of it is great. It’s a gift.. people are no longer socially inept when it comes to dancing and that’s fantastic! It’s the only show really you can have on a Saturday night with the whole family… It’s great fun, the best Saturday job ever!”

Q: Which is your favourite dance to do yourself? “The Argentine Tango is my favourite, I just love that; it’s the way the body is intertwined, how fast it is and how the woman responds to the man’s lead and how much is improvised, it’s a very cool dance, when it’s done well!”

Q: How do you feel about Shirley Ballas’ addition to the judging panel? A: “I think Shirley has made a fantastic addition to the Strictly family, she’s really confident and has learned to be less technical which is good, I think, as that can bedazzle people… she’s fitted in nicely and it’s wonderful having another woman on the panel.”

Q: You’ve directed the opera La Traviata and seem willing to tackle an infinite variety of projects? “As long as I’m in the Arts, those challenges push you forwards. I conducted Act II of La Boheme which was amazing… I studied music at school and can read music which helps and I’ve been singing, dancing and acting to music my whole life so this was really another way to understand what the conductor does. When you’re doing it yourself you get very immersed in it and you and the music become one.”

Q: You’ve written a new volume of autobiography, out soon, In Strictest Confidence, how do you feel about that? “It’s a good, fun read. I try and keep it light but it’s also tackling the death of my father and goes into all the emotions that one goes through. [His first memoir] All Balls & Glitter was really to get skeletons out of the closet so other people couldn’t tell stories about me; whereas this one is answering questions that people ask.. about Strictly, about my life and how one copes with being a celebrity and how that changes your life entirely.”

Q: Do you enjoy being in the public gaze? “The only thing I find good about being a celebrity is that you can raise money for charity and I’ve done quite a lot of that. My mum has chronic rheumatoid arthritis but osteoporosis can be prevented by exercise up to the age of 23 so that’s why it was a charity I chose in order to change people’s lives.”

Q: What was it like choreographing the final scene in Paddington 2, the big dance number led by Hugh Grant? “I taught Hugh to tap dance which was fun; he was absolutely fantastic and really applied himself because it’s tough; he literally learned in three weeks but was spending three hours a day practising.”

Q: You’re also reprising the role of Miss Hannigan in Annie in the West End… A: “She’s wonderful, a misunderstood character who actually has a lot of love to give but unfortunately the children don’t see that. She just really wants a man in her life to take care of her and not finding it tries to find the answers at the bottom of a bottle which, as we know, doesn’t work. I just enjoy her, she’s a lovely character and is funny and scary with it too, you don’t often get all that!”

Q: What’s your life philosophy? “Life is very short and you have to just go out and don’t fear anything. I’m open to whatever comes along. I’d love to direct a film as well but I think I need to act first to see how it all works then can apply everything I’ve learned from that (and from directing musicals) to film.. and perhaps promote dance in film. I’d love to do that!”