Christmas crackers in Oxfordshire

Karen Neville

Snow White

December 25th is hurtling towards us faster than a child can unwrap their presents but there’s plenty to wrap yourself up in before the ‘big day’ with events to enjoy, markets to plunder, food and drink to tuck into and not forgetting Santa to visit…

Are you hanging up your stocking on the wall? Ok, perhaps a bit too soon but in the words of Noddy Holder ‘It’s Christmas’ and there’s so much to do before it’s stocking time.

Christmas demands sparkle and magic so how about starting the festive season with a light trail? A multitude of twinkling lights and seasonal sounds fill the air with festive fun at Blenheim Palace. Discover glittering tunnels of light, dancing lakeside reflections and trees drenched in jewel-like colour on one of the country’s most popular illuminated trails. Heart-shaped arches will glitter in the moonlight, tunnels of stars and an 8m sphere will be filled with over 20,000 moving LED lights. There’s even a chance to glimpse Father Christmas along the way. The Palace itself will transform into a winter wonderland as a contemporary edition of Sleeping Beauty’s story comes to life. The Great Court outside plays host to a traditional Christmas Market.

There’s all the nostalgia of a warm, bustling, 60s country Christmas at Chastleton this year. In the inimitable style of the lively last owners of Chastleton, the Clutton-Brocks, there are cocktails on the sideboard, dinner on the table, board games and classic Christmas television. You can even get stuck in with a game of Twister. For younger visitors, there’s a festive activity trail. For a rare chance to see Chastleton after dark, book an evening Christmas tour with a warming drink and mince pie.

Open at Christmas for the first time, Nuffield Place will be beautifully decked with trees, garlands, fairy lights and lots of car-inspired decorations. Home to William Morris, Lord Nuffield, founder of Morris Motors, the house guides share stories of the house and family as you wander around the decorated house, Driving Home for Christmas.

Greys Court has always been a place of warmth and welcome and this Christmas it is brimming with cherished Christmas memories. The house and estate are adorned with decorated trees, twinkling fairy lights and the magic of the season. Embodying the spirit of Christmas past, nostalgia runs through the gift-wrapped presents, traditional toys in the nursery and Lady Brunner’s gingerbread baking is available to taste in the kitchen. There’s a Christmas trail for children around the garden and candelight tours for grown-ups to explore Greys Court after dark with a glass
of mulled wine and a mince pie.

Help Rudolph find his friends who are lost around the grounds at Waterperry Gardens until December 23rd. Find them all to claim a prize.

Visit Santa in his grotto at Webbs Garden Centre at Millets Farm, one of the most popular locally, booking essential, where he will be in residence through to Christmas Eve. Get your snow boots ready and join Snowball Sammy and friends at the North Pole, mix up some strength-boosting reindeer food to help get the reindeer back to their magical best. The big man is waiting patiently in his living room to meet his little helpers and as a thank you, he will present each family with a bespoke jigsaw keepsake of him and his elves. There’ll also be time for a festive photo before you go through to choose a toy from the large selection in the toy workshop… Move on to Mrs Claus’s kitchen where she’s thrilled to have little helpers to make her kitchen even merrier. Roll up your sleeves because it’s time to trim the tree and decorate some Christmas treats!

Let the lights guide you on an enchanting stroll through Cotswold Farm Park after hours on the set trail which takes you from the visitor centre through to the park’s boundaries and back. Meet, feed, and see the cute animals in the decorated barns at night. Stroll along the picturesque trail, winding through the farm like never before. With each step, you’ll be immersed in the festive spirit, surrounded by stunning light displays and the soft rustling of leaves. Enjoy a heartwarming, one-on-one encounter with Father Christmas and a day filled with festive joy. Join Mrs Claus in her workshop decorating gingerbread men and the elves in their teddy bear workshop creating your own cuddly friend.

Get ready to embark on a wild and wonderful Christmas adventure as Beale Wildlife Park gears up for the holiday season. It’s an opportunity to create lasting memories and support wildlife conservation efforts. Visit Santa’s Magical Grotto, meet the reindeer, follow the festival park trail hunting for hidden penguins or snowmen scattered throughout the park. A prize awaits at the finish line! Join in free festive crafts in the education centre and why not round off your day with mince pies
and non-alcoholic mulled wine?

One of Santa’s Castle elves will greet you at Oxford Castle & Prison before being taken into the base of St Georges Tower, home to over 1,000 years of history. Another elf will then take you to the 900-year-old Norman crypt to make wildlife friendly reindeer food to take away with you. Walk through the old Victorian Prison wing where you can make your very own Christmas tree bauble and the adults can try some mead. Spend some time with Santa and receive a pre-Christmas present. At the end of the trail you will have some time to write a wish and hang it on the wish tree.

Santa needs help to find his missing reindeer at Didcot Railway Centre, they’ve escaped and he needs them to deliver the presents. Explore the unique collection of Great Western Railway steam locomotives, carriages, wagons, buildings and artefacts at the 21 acre museum while you locate all the reindeer stations. You’ll pick up a special passport and a stocking as you enter and as a reward, at each reindeer station, you’ll receive a small gift before finishing with a visit to Santa in the giant toy workshop and you’ll get to choose your own gift. Your entry ticket also includes unlimited train rides on the main demonstration line.

Have you been naughty or nice? Santa will know when you take a train trip with him at the Cholsey & Wallingford Railway this Christmas. Be entertained by his elves, be visited by Father Christmas and every child will be gifted a present. Before departure adults will receive a free festive drink and mince pie, and children will enjoy a soft drink and a sweet treat from the Christmas Market.

Pantos are a unique part of an English Christmas and it just wouldn’t be the same without hissing, booing and cheering so get ready to shout “he’s behind you” at Jack as he climbs the beanstalk at Oxford Playhouse, join The Sinodun Players for The Adventures of Sinbad at Wallingford Corn Exchange and head to The Beacon Wantage as Robin Hood robs from the rich to give to the poor. Abingdon Drama Club are doing battle with Captain Hook in Peter Pan, Kingston Bagpuize Drama Group are searching for the owner of the slipper in Cinderella while the much-loved classic tale gets a Latin American twist at Chipping Norton Theatre. Head to the Corn Exchange Witney to meet Snow White and her seven new friends on their adventure.

Oxford City Christmas Market sets up in Broad Street with a mix of arts, crafts, food stalls and gifts daily until December 23rd.  Shop for artisan crafts at the brand new, 3x3m pop up canopies, in the traditional red and green colours of the season.

Roaring log fires and sumptuous feasts are the staple ingredients for a cracking Christmas so how about The Parsonage Grill at Oxford for your Christmas party or get together with family and friends or how about leaving the hard work to someone else and booking in for the Christmas Day menu? Details at www.parsonagegrill.co.uk/festive-season If you’re looking for somewhere grand that screams Oxford to dine on Christmas Day then head to Quod Restaurant & Bar (https://www.quod.co.uk/food-and-drink/christmas-day/) for three courses and canapes. The unique and beautiful Gees provides an enchanted setting for your seasonal celebration, perfect for that end of year get together. More at www.geesrestaurant.co.uk/festive-season

Want to spice up your Christmas fare? Mowgli Street Food in Oxford’s Westgate is all about the type of food Indians cook and eat at home, tiffins full of fresh, bright, intense flavour. The aromas from the simple dishes cooked fresh in the restaurant each morning will lure you in. Book their feasting menu for the perfect Christmas celebration with a twist. See the menus and book at www.mowglistreetfood.com/restaurants/oxford

Hobbs of Henley are running their popular Santa Cruises again this year. The brilliant Bertie Slippers will have everyone roaring with laughter and will be adding some magic, balloons and puppets to the children’s entertainment. Santa will be in his grotto bearing gifts for all the children. Plus there will be refreshments and biscuits for the kids and a cash bar for the parents. Trips on 16th, 20th and 22nd, booking at www.hobbsofhenley.com/santa-cruises

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas with this ultimate feel good, sing-along concert, guaranteed to bring you Christmas cheer and have you dancing in the aisles! The UK’s number one Michael Buble tribute act is taking to the stage of the historic Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, with a live big band where you can hear best loved hits such as White Christmas, Santa Baby, Holly Jolly Christmas, All I Want For Christmas Is You and many more, performed by candlelight on December 13th.

Give a gift that shows how much you care this Christmas. A pain relieving muscle rub is the perfect gift for anyone looking to genuinely improve the lives of their loved ones. Soothe this season with a groundbreaking anti-inflammatory gel that got Ian Botham back on his feet. Give the gift of relief, with EthicaCBD Sports Gel, for muscles, joints, and tendons. Visit www.ethicacbd.com

Love, laughs & larks

Round & About

Snow White

Boo, hiss, you won’t want to miss… It’s time to sprinkle the fairy dust and wave your wand to welcome larger than life characters and slapstick galore – pantos are back!

Find Pantos near you this winter


Surrey

Our Q&A star this month Lucy Benjamin got into some scrapes during her time in EastEnders and as the Wicked Stepmother in Cinderella at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, this festive season will no doubt get into some more in the classic rags to riches tale. Radio’s Peter Gordon returns for his 18th year, this time in a hilarious Ugly Stepsister duo alongside Guildford Shakepeare Company co-founder Matt Pinches. It’s also welcome back to CBeebies star James Merry for his third Yvonne Arnaud panto! The godmother of all pantos, full of slapstick and slosh, music and magic runs from December 2nd to January 7th. For tickets visit yvonne-arnaud.co.uk

The story of a young girl’s journey from scullery to ballroom is also being told with tears, laughter, music and fun at Camberley Theatre from December 9th to 31st. This new, magical production of the timeless story of Cinderella will delight the whole family featuring a jukebox of much loved songs, beautiful costumes and a talented cast of actors and dancers. Will Cinderella be able to escape her cruel family for a chance of one night of fun, and maybe find love along the way? Find out more for yourself at camberleytheatre.co.uk

Holly, Santa’s newest elf and Trixie the experienced elf are busy decorating Santa’s workshop in the lead up to Christmas. Holly reveals Lapland’s biggest secret, that once a year Santa sends a magical gift to one person who deserves it the most. Holly writes her Christmas wish on a snowflake and places it on the window ledge, a gust of wind takes it, and in the morning a large golden gift appears in its place. Is it really Santa’s Magical Gift? Find out in this heart-warming festive story with audience participation, comedy routines and a present for every child in the audience from Santa at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre, December 17th to 24th. Book at atgtickets.com

Aladdin may be poor but he has ambitions beyond Widow Twankey’s laundry where he helps his mum and hapless brother Wishee Washee. Enter stage left to boos and hisses, the evil Abanazar tempting Aladdin with untold riches. Add a wish or three of magic in the shape of an enchanted lamp, plus not one but two genies and you have all the ingredients for a traditional panto in this year’s offering from Godalming Theatre Group at Ben Travers Theatre, Charterhouse, Godalming, December 15th to 18th. Tickets from thelittleboxoffice.com

Meet The Society for Christmas Creatures at Farnham Maltings this December. They are the world’s only expert team of festive detectives, and they know a thing or two about Christmas. Armed with a taste for adventure (and a pair of knitting needles), they’ve trekked far and wide searching for Christmas creatures of every shape and size. Now they’re here in Farnham for their toughest mission yet: to find the elusive Christmas Lobster and maybe (just maybe) discover the true meaning of Christmas. Will they find him? Find out from 13th to 24th, exc 19th. Book at farnhammaltings.com

When Christmas is over there’s still time to enjoy a panto with The Quince Players’ who this year are staging Ba-Ba Land, a brand new story about the land of nursery rhymes, a budding romance between Bo Beep and Little Boy Blue and a competition that the Big Bad Wolf is determined to win. Performance dates are January 11th-14th and 18th-20th at Cordes Hall, Sunninghill. Tickets will be available from mid-November at quinceplayers.com


Hampshire

Pumpkin Pantos are back with another spellbinding pantomime and this year it’s one as old as time featuring a cursed prince, an enchanted rose and a magical castle. Can the cold-hearted Beast find true love before it’s too late? Is the beautiful Belle his chance of a happy ever after? Only time will tell in this spectacular production with stunning scenery, lavish costumes, memorable songs and laughs galore. Join Beauty and the Beast at Alton Assembly Rooms, December 9th and 10th and Forest Community Centre, Bordon, the week after on 15th-17th. Tickets at www.pumpkinpantos.co.uk

Dick Whittington, a plucky young man from the country, arrives in London to make his fortune, with his trusty feline sidekick in tow. Little does he know, his journey could fulfil an ancient prophecy and Queen Rat will do everything in her power to stop Dick in his tracks. Come along on a whirlwind journey through the streets of London and across the seas at the Harlington, Fleet from December 9th to 29th. Book here theharlington.co.uk

Cinderella is also looking for her lost shoe at Theatre Royal Winchester in this retelling of the greatest fairytale of them all. With original songs, loads of corny gags, audience participation and some surprising twists to the tale, the whole family is invited to the ball from November 30th to January 1st. Book at theatreroyalwinchester.co.uk

The swashbuckling adventure at The Anvil, Basingstoke this Christmas is The Further Adventures of Peter Pan: The Return of Hook starring Gavin & Stacey’s Melanie Walters as Mrs Darling and Ethyl Mermaid, Channel 5’s Milkshake! presenter David Ribi as Peter Pan, the ever-comical Chris Pizzey (CBBC’s Basil Brush) back by popular demand as Smee, Nickelodeon’s Holly Atterton as Tinker Bell, while Chris Fearn returns as Captain Hook. Check out anvilarts.org.uk  for full details.

Santa is determined to deliver the most fantastic Christmas present to Sarah, but he doesn’t get it right straight away! With the help of his cheeky Elf, he finally settles on something ‘perfect’, just in time for Christmas Eve. From the author of the well-loved children’s book Dear Zoo, Rod Campbell, Dear Santa, is an ideal introduction to theatre for those aged two and over. Meet Santa in his grotto after the show at The Haymarket, Basingstoke and receive a free gift. The show runs from December 7th to 10th, book at anvilarts.org.uk

The Phoenix Theatre in Bordon bring three classic tales to life this Christmas. A-Lad-In-Space is their adult’s only pantomime, telling the tale of Aladdin with a 1950s science-fiction feeling; you’ll rekindle your warp drive and be sent into orbit frm December 14th to 16th. For younger ones Oomph Theatre brings Hansel & Gretel on December 18th and 19th, a fabulous feast of festive fun. The Phoenix Players’ Red Riding Hood takes you on a journey through the deep, dark forest to Granny’s house. January fun on 19th, 20th, 25th to 27th. Book tickets for these at phoenixarts.co.uk


Oxfordshire

Get ready for a gigantic panto experience and climb new heights with Jack and the Beanstalk, a fee fi fo fun pantomime for everyone to enjoy at Oxford Playhouse, November 24th to January 7th. Poor Jack can’t seem to help getting into trouble with his mum. Now he’s really landed himself in it by selling the family cow to a stranger for a handful of old beans. But those mysterious beans have started to grow…and grow… and GROW! Full of infectious laughter, brilliant storytelling, singing, dancing, cheering for the goodies and booing for the baddies, an Oxford Playhouse pantomime is fabulous festive fun for everyone aged 5 to 105! Book tickets for this at oxfordplayhouse.com

Oxford’s New Theatre is home to one of the biggest shows in recent years, coming of age musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. Sixteen-year-old Jamie doesn’t quite fit in, terrified but determined to be a sensation and with love and support from his mum and friends, Jamie beats prejudice and the bullies to step into the spotlight. A hit in the West End, see it for yourself from December 12th to 30th. Tickets at atgtickets.com

Join The Sinodun Players on an epic journey across the seas in The Adventures of Sinbad at the Corn Exchange Wallingford this January, 12th to 27th. With all the magic and fun of a traditional panto, be enchanted by the sparkling diamond cave, wonder at the magic carpet and the myriad characters that make up this exciting story, oh and there’s a baby elephant too! Intrigued? Full details and booking at cornexchange.org.uk

It’s the panto you’ve ‘bean’ waiting for! Immersion Theatre are thrilled to bring a giant amount of fe-fi-fo-fun to the Kenton Theatre as they present Jack and the Beanstalk, a magical pantomime of epic proportions from December 9th to 31st. Packed with comedy, music and audience participation, this hilarious and action-packed adventure promises to be a joyous and festive experience, oh yes it does! Book at kentontheatre.co.uk

The Henley Children’s Theatre’s annual panto is Beauty and the Beast. It may be a tale as old as time, but there is nothing outdated about this production, and certainly not the cast of enthusiastic youngsters! We meet our book-loving heroine Belle and Prince Perfect who is turned in to a Beast and must find someone to love him all while the clock is ticking! The cast of local children, aged 4-16, will delight with their joie-de-vivre (and questionable French accents) at the Kenton Theatre, January 3rd to 6th. Tickets at kentontheatre.co.uk

Deep in Sherwood Forest, local hero Robin Hood robs from the rich and gives to the poor. Will he rescue Maid Marion from the clutches of the money grabbing Sheriff of Nottingham? Packed with songs, slapstick, the most dangerous archery competition you ever did see and all the fairy-tale magic of traditional pantomime. Enjoy the merriest panto in the land at The Beacon Wantage on December 9th and 10th. For tickets visit beaconwantage.co.uk

Christmas is coming and Sally can’t sleep – it’s far too hot! The weather has gone topsy-turvy. Sally has a dream that changes everything – a mysterious silver spark transforms her bedroom into a glistening, white field where she meets the glowing Heart of Winter. The magical new musical show at Didcot’s Cornerstone (December 18th to 24th) celebrates family, friendship and the good fortune of finding the winter we really need and want…with the festive offering of lots of fluffy snow! Book at cornerstone-arts.org

Abingdon Drama Club are telling the story of Peter Pan, January 11th to 14th and 17th to 20th. Join Peter, Wendy and the lost boys as they do battle with Captain Hook in this comic caper. More details and tickets at abingdon-drama-club.com

Abingdon’s Amey Theatre offers a variety of seasonal shows to entertain, including The Snowman Live with Wantage Band on 3rd December. The concert will centre on a performance of the soundtrack to the 1982 film with a showing of the film itself. On 12th December, you can also join Clara, her Nutcracker doll and the Sugar Plum Fairy in the magical Christmas ballet in the Royal Opera House live performance of The Nutcracker. To browse and book events at the Amey Theatre, visit abingdon.org.uk

Kingston Bagpuize Drama Group present Cinderella, a pantomime by Tom Whalley. Forced to do all the terrible chores at Hardup Hall by her two awful, ugly stepsisters, Cinderella dreams of the day her Prince Charming will take her away to a happily ever after. With a little help from her Fairy Godmother and some magic it might just happen. November 23rd to 25th at Southmoor Village Hall, OX13 5BY. Tickets at tinyurl.com/3rzyccfa

Expect toe tapping songs, lots of audience participation, very corny jokes, comedy and even a bit of Carry On Camping thrown in to Snow White at the Corn Exchange Witney, December 14th to 31st (selected dates). The story has a host of colourful characters including a talking mirror. Join Buttercross Theatre Productions and find out if Snow White manages to outwit her wicked stepmother and bag her handsome prince with the help of her seven new friends. Book at buttercrosstheatreproductions.co.uk

There’s a Latin American twist to a traditional tale at the Theatre Chipping Norton this Christmas, where Cinderella promises to be the perfect panto for Encanto-loving families. Director John Terry calls it “a joyful blast of carnival colour and energy the likes of which neither Cinderella nor Chipping Norton has seen before!” The clock is ticking. Book your tickets now for the panto, November 15th to January 14th, at chippingnortontheatre.com


Berkshire

Reading’s favourite panto star Mr Tumble aka Justin Fletcher is back at The Hexagon for Sleeping Beauty from December 9th to January 7th. The wicked fairy Carabosse’s evil curse causes the princess to prick her finger on a spinning wheel and fall into an enchanted sleep, can anyone rescue her from a magical slumber before it is too late? Sleeping Beauty will have everything you expect from a pantomime at the Hexagon, memorable musical numbers, tons of fun and laughter and a happy ever after! Book at whatsonreading.com

Why see just one pantomime when you can see seven? A madcap ride through the biggest and best pantos is on offer at Reading Rep Theatre courtesy of Potted Panto. All the beloved pantomime characters arrive on stage in this wonderfully absurd festive treat. A dastardly double act dash from rubbing Aladdin’s lamp to roaming the golden streets of Dick Whittington’s London and making sure that Cinderella gets to the ball! This might not be the traditional panto you think you’re looking for, but it’s the panto you need, from November 27th to December 31st. Book your tickets at readingrep.com

Make all of your wishes come true and join Windsor’s favourite threesome on a magical (carpet) ride of adventure and fun! With traditional pantomime comedy capers, dazzling dancers, colourful costumes, and a sprinkling of magic, you won’t want to miss this ‘genie’-ous show! Due to popular demand, this year’s pantomime is being extended for an extra week from November 24th to January 14th – making Aladdin Theatre Royal Windsor’s biggest panto of all time! Tickets at theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk

Magic and mayhem are the order of the day at the Wilde Theatre with a new version of the timeless tale of Sleeping Beauty. A young princess is cursed to die on her birthday by an evil witch. After pricking her finger on a spinning wheel’s spindle, she falls into an eternal sleep from which she can only be awoken by true love’s kiss. Will the Princess find her true love and live happily ever after? Expect laughter, silly songs, colourful characters, slapstick comedy, and dangerous dragons in this panto favourite full of creative sparkle. You’ll be enchanted! November 24th to December 31st. More at southhillpark.org.uk

‘Every time a bell chimes an angel gets it’s wings’ in this adaption of the seasonal classic It’s A Wonderful Life, November 30th to December 30th at Reading Rep Theatre. It’s Christmas Eve in Bedford Falls… Down-on-his-luck banker, George Bailey, feels life has passed him by. So when his guardian angel pays him a visit, George is amazed to discover what life in his beloved town would be like without him in it… Maybe it’d be a little less wonderful after all? Based on the critically acclaimed 1946 Frank Capra movie this reimagining is brought to life by four actors playing all the residents of Bedford Falls. Don’t miss this heart-warming tale; readingrep.com

Experience Aladdin, Jasmine, and Genie on their magical journey to find the lamp and defeat the evil sorcerer in the magical, musical and hilarious adventure for the whole family brought to you by Wokingham Pantomime Group. Book your tickets for The Whitty Theatre, Luckley House School on December 29th and 30th at ticketsource.co.uk

Riverside Players are bringing Old Mother Hubbard, the Lady who Lived in a Shoe to The Memorial Hall, Windsor from December 1st to 3rd and 7th to 9th. The show features all your favourite characters from the hard-working Dame, Mother Hubbard, doing her best for her mischievous orphans Jack and Jill. There’s a classic love story between Little Miss Muffet and Little Boy Blue, Wee Willy Winky has been up all night and needs help staying awake, and the evil Baron is intent on bringing the village of Lower Bottom to its knees. Plenty of other characters show up along the way too. Book at riversideplayers.com or call 07803 705437.

Panto continues into the new year with Twyford Drama putting on Treasure Island, January 12th and 13th. The nautical masterpiece combines a comical riot of piratical hi jinks, flying custard pies, suspenseful chases, ferocious fights and of course…a never-to-be-forgotten hair-raising haunted grotto. Tickets and more info at twyforddrama.co.uk


Buckinghamshire

Strictly Come Dancing glitter-ball winner Joe McFadden will reprise his role of baddie, the arrogant Eugene, alongside Hear’say and musical theatre star Suzanne Shaw as the Enchantress in Wycombe Swan and Imagine Theatre’s all-star Beauty and The Beast from 8th to 31st December. Joe says: “I’m excited to be back at the beautiful Swan after having a brilliant time here earlier in the year with the tour of Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Crack’d.” Suzanne adds: “I couldn’t be more delighted to be in Beauty and the Beast in my home town, I’ve wanted to do panto in Wycombe for 16 years and finally my wish has come true!”

They will star, along with Wycombe favourite Jon Clegg and another vocal local, Britain’s Got Talent Favourite La Voix, who recently appeared in ITV’s Queens For The Night as well as starring in Queen Of The Universe, the international drag-singing competition from RuPaul. Currently touring the UK in her show, The Red Ambition Tour, La Voix is no stranger to pantoland, telling us: “I can’t wait to play Peggy, internationally renowned barmaid of the village tavern! “Now, it sounds like I’ve been round the block a bit but this must be coming up 20 years of panto… And I love it: Christmas and panto!” Book at wycombeswan.co.uk

The Young Theatre at Beaconsfield’s The Curzon Theatre, HP9 1RG, will dazzle you with Cinderella, directed by Emma McGrath, 21st to 24th December, with an original script and loads of great songs and music, as well as some “truly ridiculous” jokes. Book your tickets at youngtheatre.org.uk

At The Elgiva in Chesham, you’re invited to step into a world of enchanted pumpkins, a handsome prince and some very special footwear… The team are preparing the sparkly costumes for a dazzling Cinderella from 2nd to 8th December. Please book your tickets at elgiva.com

Maidenhead pantomime Beauty and the Beast, supported by Marlow FM promises to whisk you away, at the Baylis Theatre in Braywick Leisure Centre, 14th to 24th December; maidenheadpanto.co.uk Aylesbury Waterside Theatre brings you Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs from 1st December to 3rd January. More than 50,000 people watched last year’s production, and sales indicate another record-breaking year in store. BBC3 Counties breakfast show star Andy Collins returns, by popular demand, for a 12th magical year, playing the role of Muddles. “Year on year I feel so lucky getting to do something I love, in a town that I love, and with audiences who are quite simply the best around. Every year I do my thing on stage and see the faces of school children, parents, grandmas and grandads having fun and making memories.” For info
& tickets visit atgtickets.com

At Aylesbury’s Norman Bragg Studio, HP20 1UG, there are the festive alternatives of A Christmas Carol, 12th to 17th December, and Santa’s New Sleigh 19th to 24th December; please visit atgtickets.com

Some different festive offerings from Norden Farm… Enjoy an evening of stories, flowers and fragrant festive designs on 16th November with Mig Kimpton In Floral Pantoland! Miki is a magical family show for ages 3+ following a polar bear and penguin, 28th November to 30th December. And The Hundred Watt Club bring you A Burlesque Christmas Special on 15th December. To find out more & book please visit norden.farm

The Lane End Players are an established amateur theatre group whose talented players are polishing up their Pinocchio, featuring the famous puppet brought to life and his subsequent adventures with a circus, mermaids, a whale and lots more! Shows at the hall, HP14 3JE, from 12th to 27 January; visit laneendplayers.com

And inclusive Iver Heath Drama Club will offer six shows of Dick Whittington over two weekends from 20 to 27th January 2024, written by Lee Hall and directed by Lee Hall and Kaia Barton. Tickets at available to book here

Whichever pantos you choose, we hope you enjoy the best of the season.
All together now.. he’s behind you!

Star Q&A: Gok Wan

Round & About

Snow White

Television star Gok Wan, 47, talks to us ahead of his dazzling star turn as the Man In The Mirror in Snow White at Woking’s New Victoria Theatre from 4th December to 2nd January

Hi Gok! How did you get involved in pantomime? “I’ve dreamt of being on stage forever. I first began to think about panto some years back. I was fascinated… Then one evening, maybe 2012 or 2013, I was with Lionel Blair and the very naughty Louie Spence. They said I really should give it a try. I spoke with my agent and Channel Four got involved. I first met Snow White then. There have been other pantos since then but it’s really great to be back with Snow White.”

Q. What’s your character The Man In The Mirror like to play? “Man In The Mirror sounds like a piece of furniture! I’m not and it isn’t! The script is amazing. I finished re-reading it again this morning – the tradition has again been tweaked for the 2020s and I’m excited. The mirror has messages. The mirror motivates. The mirror is magic.”

Q. And your costume… do you have a professional opinion about it? “Do I have an opinion? Oh yes I do! I like it. I was encouraged from the start to contribute input, although the designer anticipated so much that my suggestions could be called incidental. There’s a vital aspect, though, and one I insist on. An aspect that’s seen and unseen – the fit! My costume has to fit and over the Christmas period that could mean adjustments… It’s gotta be done.”

Q. Do you have any pre-show dressing room rituals? “Haha! Not only in the dressing room! Yes, I’m superstitious and my rituals – as you call them – go on throughout the performance; I don’t leave them to lurk alone in the dressing room. What can I tell you? Ahh, there’s ‘first on stage.’ Of course there is going to be stage crew but I like to be the first cast member on stage before a performance. What else? This year in Snow White I am required to fly and when I’m up high, without fail, I whisper a hello to my Mum. I love the flying bit. Love it, love it!”

Q. What is the secret to a great pantomime? “Three ‘secrets’: the first is definitely the audience; the second is likely to be the audience and the third, in my experience, is probably the audience. I like to open the show, to greet and welcome everyone and I can predict within 20 seconds
just what sort of evening it will be. People
have probably had tensions at work, frustrations with traffic, delays or hold-ups – it’s important to me that everyone feels wanted.”

Q. We’re enjoying your new TV show Bling… “I believe you can get a lot from the series. Jewellery can mean so much more than ‘an accessory’ – so often there is special significance attached to a piece. The series sparkles with stories, memories and emotion, as well as amazing technical skills and explanations. It is fascinating. I learned a lot.”

Q. Do you know this part of the world well? “Not really. My home’s London so I’ll commute. I like town and city life. The hustle, the bustle, the noise, the rush, the dirt, energy, sweat, the crowds. I am a absolutely a city boy! I was brought up and lived over a restaurant so it’s what I’m used to.”

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