It’s behind you! Panto around the Cotswolds
- Credit: Archant
Principal Boy Tracy Spiers dons her tights and boots as she looks forward to this season’s crop of Cotswold pantomimes
There are a lot of giants, beanstalks, golden eggs, larger-than-life dames, silly jokes and slapstick humour going on in theatres throughout the Cotswolds.
December and January mark pantomime season and whether one is young or old, it is good clean fun for all the family and keeps the English tradition alive. The origins of British ‘Panto’ date back to the middle ages. It takes on board the Italian ‘Commedia dell’ Arte, Italian night scenes and British Music Hall and creates an intrinsic art form that is constantly brought up to date with quips and witty one-liners from 21st century living. It is a fantastic way to introduce children to live theatre and they often lead the way with their shouts of “Oh yes it is!” and “Abracadabra!” So much so, from my experience, if you don’t join in, they glare at you!
Here in our area, there is a huge range of pantomimes on offer. Jack and the Beanstalk appears to be a favourite this year, as does Aladdin and Peter Pan. Of course much of a pantomime’s appeal lies in its predictability. The story lines and characters are familiar to us and we often know the punchlines. But it is Britain’s original art form, and that surely must be something to celebrate. Now where did I put my glasses? My children, used to their mother’s scatty nature, reply: “They’re behind you!”
Where: Theatre Royal
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Panto: Peter Pan
Times: December 12-January 12, 2014
Tickets: 01225 448844
EastEnders and Call the Midwife star Cliff Parisi appears as the dastardly Captain Hook and joins Dame extraordinaire Chris Harris and pantomime favourite Jon Monie for the Theatre Royal’s swashbuckling treat Peter Pan from December 12 to January 12, 2014.
One of the best-loved stories in children’s’ literature, JM Barrie’s classic tells the story of Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up. When Pan flies into the Darling children’s nursery one night and takes them off to Neverland, a thrilling adventure begins in the magical world of Tinkerbell, Tiger Lily and the Lost Boys, where they do battle with Captain Hook and his pirate crew. Packed with comedy, singing, dancing, beautiful costumes and plenty of audience participation, Peter Pan promises to be a swashbuckling and unmissable Christmas treat that’s got everything - with flying, CGI special effects and all the traditional ingredients that make Bath pantomimes so special.
Known to millions of television viewers for his portrayal of the loveable rogue motor mechanic Minty in over 550 episodes of BBC1’s EastEnders, Cliff Parisi, most recently appeared in BBC1’s hit series Call the Midwife, as Fred the handyman. The West’s best-loved Dame Chris Harris returns by popular demand to star as Governess Gertie and will also direct the show. An institution in the world of panto, Chris Harris has performed in pantomimes across the South West for over 30 years and 2013 marks his 13th consecutive year on stage in Bath’s Christmas show. Award-winning stand-up comedian and experienced television presenter, Jon Monie returns to the Theatre Royal to play Smee with the mischievous comedy and hilarious antics which have made him a huge favourite with Bath’s pantomime audiences. The role of Peter Pan will be played by Jessica Punch, who last performed at the Theatre Royal Bath in Mother Goose in 2005. This year’s pantomime will also feature the delightful young dancers and Lost Boys from Bath’s Dorothy Coleborn School of Dance, fresh from the sold out success of their show Spellbound at the Theatre Royal Bath earlier this year.
Where: Chipping Norton Theatre
Panto: Jack and the Beanstalk
Times: November 19-January 12
Tickets: 01608 642350
A boy and his cow, a giant and his castle in the clouds, beanstalks, bravery and beautiful princesses all feature in this unique twist on the classic story of Jack and the Beanstalk.
Steeped in the myths and legends of the English countryside, Chipping Norton Theatre’s show, written by Ben Crocker, is a celebratory spectacular of laughter, music and lots and lots of sweeties. A multi-talented cast play a huge array of instruments to make this a musical extravaganza. It’s a show so full of beans it will have you laughing and singing until the cow comes home. Performers include Rachel Dawson (Jack), Jessica Dyas (Beatrice), Richard Emerson (The King), Max Gallagher (Simple Simon), JJ Henry (Dame Trott), Emma O’Dell (Mrs Giant), and Rowan Talbot (Giant).
Where: Cheltenham Everyman
When: November 29-January 12
Tickets via website: www.everymantheatre.org.uk
Star of last year’s panto, the mischievous and clumsy Tweedy the Clown from Gifford’s Circus has returned to Cheltenham’s Everyman this Christmas for Aladdin, who embarks on a journey from rags to riches, defeating the evil Abanazar and winning the heart of a beautiful princess. Aladdin promises good clean fun, frolics with Eiliam Elliot, back as Widow Twankey and a lot of wishful thinking with the Genie of the Lamp and a fantastic flying carpet. Meanwhile, Christina Modestou will be performing at the Regent Street theatre for the first time in her role as Aladdin.
Where: Bacon Theatre, Dean Close School, Cheltenham
Panto: Robin Hood by Promenade Productions
When: January 22-26
Tickets: 01242 224144
For 2014 Promenade Productions, Cheltenham’s most popular ‘panto provider’ have chosen a pantomime which is a little different from the traditional pantomimes, but comes with more than its fair share of mayhem and merriment! Follow the legendary Robin Hood, as he battles the evil Sheriff of Nottingham to free the land from tyranny. Robin is of course aided by his merry men: Little John, Friar Tuck, Alan a Dale, to name but a few while the evil Sheriff is hindered by his hilariously idiotic henchmen, and a Soothsayer, who fails miserably in her attempts to foretell the future in her crystal ball. Both Robin and the Sheriff are distracted by the beauty of Maid Marian, whose Nanny, Nora Tittle Tattle, adds even more hilarity to this highly entertaining pantomime. It will have lots of laughs, stunning sets, fabulous costumes, great dance routines, a large cast and lots of audience participation. There will also be two matinee performances.
Where: King’s Theatre
Panto: Dick Whittington
When: December 5-7
Tickets: 01452 721745
Talented boys and girls of Starstruck Youth Drama entertain with their sparkling version of Dick Whittington this December, which promises to be fun for all the family.
Where: King’s Theatre
Panto: Sleeping Beauty
When: December 18-21
Tickets: 01452 396572, 07976545202
Amateur theatre group, Tyger Productions, will be treating Gloucester families to a traditional pantomime of the enchanting fairy-tale Sleeping Beauty.
Where: Wall’s Club, Barnwood
When: December 23-January 12
Tickets: 01452 396572
Ahead of its centenary, the Gloucestershire Operatic and Dramatic Society is set to dazzle panto-loving families with colourful characters, close-up magic, real white ponies and the return of the fabulous Jerry Lane as the wicked Baroness, in Cinderella.
Where: Royal Spa Centre and Town Hall
When: December 7-January 4
Tickets: 01926 334418
Add a touch of sparkle to the festive season with Imagine Theatre’s magical mix of music, comedy, adventure and pantomime fun. Come and see if Aladdin, a poor Chinese boy, can win the heart of the beautiful princess. With a law decreeing that the princess can only marry a prince, and the evil Abanazar up to no good, it looks as though Aladdin’s dream may never come true. And he’s not the only one! Aladdin’s mum Widow Twankey, has got the mixed-up Chinese laundry blues; her other son Wishee Washee is being particularly unhelpful and they are also very poor. If only Aladdin could make his fortune and then all their dreams could come true. Last year local star Kev McGreevy played John the Jester in Sleeping Beauty. This year he will once again use his comic talents to play the hilarious Wishee Washee in Aladdin. Taking on the title role of Aladdin is Jenny Phillips, with Arina Ii as the beautiful Princess Baldroubadour who captures our hero’s heart. The dual roles of Spirit of the Ring and So-Shi will be played by Hannah Farquharson, returning to the Spa Centre after playing Snow White last year. Torchwood star Kai Owen also joins the cast of Aladdin this Christmas as the hilarious Widow Twankey. Will Abanazar prove to be a more difficult opponent than a hoard of invading Daleks?
Where: Malvern Festival Theatre
Panto: Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs
When: December 12-January 5
Tickets: 01684 892 277
This magical family pantomime stars Sue Holderness as the Wicked Queen, best known as Marlene in Only Fools and Horses and Chris Pizzey as Muddles, best known as Mr Stephen in The Basil Brush Show! Presented by UK Productions, one of the most prolific musical and pantomime producers in the country, Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs has everything one would expect from a good panto, including exquisite costumes, enchanting sets, music, dance, fun and laughter.
Where: Oxford Playhouse
Panto: Robin Hood
When: November 29-January 12
Tickets: 01865 305305
Robin Hood is riding into Oxford Playhouse for the very first time in this action-packed new panto. Expect non-stop thrills and spills as Robin and his Merry Men battle the evil Sherriff of Nottingham in this classic tale sure to delight all the family. With a superb cast of favourite characters, sing-a-long tunes, stunning dancing, slapstick, silliness and lots of chances to join in, Oxford Playhouse’s production of Robin Hood promises to be the perfect festive entertainment. Christmas isn’t the same without a visit to Oxford Playhouse, famous for its traditional pantomimes with high production values. This Christmas Robin Hood sees the return of Peter Duncan, who wrote and directed last year’s smash hit Dick Whittington, with his eighth Playhouse pantomime.
Where: Stroud Subscription Rooms
Panto: Dick Whittington by Daylight Theatre Company
When: December 23-24
Tickets: 01453 760900
Expect plenty of fun, merriment and adventure in Daylight Theatre Company’s annual family pantomime, Dick Whittington, showing at Stroud Subscription Rooms this December. County children will love the rags-to-riches tale of Gloucestershire’s own Dick Whittington, which is filled with fun, merriment and adventure as the local legend runs away to make his fortune, only to find the streets of London overrun by rats instead of being paved with gold. It may have something to do with Count Ratticus but there is also a thief also at large, and why does Ginger the cat think he’s a chicken? It’s down to Gloucestershire families to help Dick defeat King Rat, marry Alice and become the Lord Mayor of London. Daylight Theatre Company has been entertaining county children for more than three decades, with its annual pantomime continuing to be a calendar highlight year on year. Starring Daylight Theatre Company founders Hugh Young and Roger Burfield and local actress Kim Baker, Dick Whittington promises elaborate scenery, a lot of laughs and plenty of puppetry and audience participation. The hour-long show will be showing at 11am and 2.30pm.
Where: Cotswold Playhouse, Parliament Street, Stroud
Panto: Jack and the Beanstalk by the Cotswold Players
When: January 15-18; January 22-25
Tickets: 0844 8700 887
Stroud’s own theatre is a real gem and has won numerous awards for its productions. Guaranteed to make their audiences smile, the Cotswold Players always put on a great show which helps the New Year begin in style. This year’s pantomime season features a very special production of Jack and the Beanstalk, written in 2000 by Roy Hudd OBE, in which Wayne Sleep played Dame Foxy Trott, the owner and headteacher of a dance school for children. This Dame had a son, Jack and a cow called Daisy and not much else. Her life was plagued by Stinkwort who was henchman to an evil Giant who lived in the clouds above the village. As the story unfolded Stinkwort tricked Jack into selling Daisy for a bag of beans. Helped by the good Fairy Lettuce, Jack climbed a magic beanstalk and rescued Daisy and to cut a long story short the Giant was overcome, Stinkwort defeated and everyone lived happily ever after. This pantomime was staged at The Hall For Cornwall in Truro and this year by kind personal permission of Mr Hudd, Jack and the Beanstalk will be performed at The Cotswold Playhouse. Unfortunately the director couldn’t get Wayne Sleep but Dame Foxy Trott will be there dancing, running her school and giving out sweets. Featuring Stroud’s schoolchildren and many local talented thespians, Jack and the Beanstalk will be performed 10 times with matinees on both Saturdays at 2.30pm.
Where: Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Waterside
Panto: Wendy & Peter Pan
When: December 10-March 2
Wonderful visual elements, lots of fighting, flying and dancing are promised in the world premiere of Ella Hickson’s Wendy & Peter Pan. This fresh new adaptation of the much loved children’s classic by JM Barrie, directed by Jonathan Munby is a moving yet exciting one. The emotional journey that both the central characters go on is something people of all ages can empathise with. Ella Hickson explains why she called the pantomime Wendy & Peter Pan.
“When I read the original book and play again I was struck by how much fun the boys were having and how Wendy had very few choices outside of just ‘playing mother’. That was one of the elements that didn’t seem very true to today’s world,” she says.
“I was interested to see what the story looks like told from Wendy’s perspective - what does Wendy want and how it is her Never Land as much as it is for the boys.”
Designed by Colin Richmond, the show is guaranteed make children gasp and at the same time wow the audience with its exquisite detail which the cast say is magical and beautiful. Set in winter 1909, snow is falling across London. Wendy Darling and her brothers sleep peacefully in the bedroom, as their parents bicker downstairs. In a sudden flurry of snow their window blows open, and into their lives tumbles a mischievous boy called Peter, shortly followed by a very fractious fairy by the name of Tink. In the magical Peter Pan, Wendy sees not only a great adventure, but also a chance to rediscover the key to her parents’ lost happiness. With the aid of a little fairy dust she agrees to fly with Peter to Neverland. There she will give the Lost Boys a run for their money; defeat Captain Hook and his pirate crew, and ultimately, learn what it means to grow up.
Where: The Attic Theatre, Cox’s Yard, Stratford
When: December 23–December 29
Tickets: 07952 819557
Tread the Boards Theatre Company annual Christmas pantomime takes audiences on a journey into the Cave of Wonders with Aladdin as he goes in search of the magic lamp that will make his wildest dreams come true. But the evil magician Abanazar has other plans. Can Aladdin save the day and marry the beautiful Princess and will Widow Twankey ever find a husband? Join Aladdin, The Princess, Wishee Washee, Widow Twankey and Abanazar on a mystical carpet ride full of fun and giggles suitable for the whole family
Where: Wyvern Theatre
Panto: Jack and the Beanstalk
When: December 7- January 5
Tickets: 01793 524 481
Keith Chegwin stars in his third Wyvern Theatre pantomime and returns in his hilarious role of Silly Billy in Jack and the Beanstalk. Chegwin says that Panto at the Wyvern Theatre “has become part of my Christmas routine now,” adding that Swindon is now his Christmas home.
“As with many theatres in the UK, the Wyvern has forged a strong connection with its pantomime’s leading star,” says Theatre Director Derek Aldridge. “We love Keith, the audience love Keith and it is therefore my pleasure to invite him back to the Wyvern!”
The pantomime tells the story of Jack (Sam Parker) who has to sell his cow Daisy in order for his mother Dame Trot (David Ashley) to make ends meet. Jack exchanges Daisy for magic beans – magic beans which, with the help of a Fairy (Jennifer Greenwood), grows to become the biggest beanstalk in all the land... and at the top of it is one giant surprise. Staff say that “giant laughs” will be had by the entire audience and people won’t have to sell the family cow to enjoy the show.
Where: The Roses Theatre
Panto: Jack and the Beanstalk
When: November 30-January 4
This year’s magical pantomime transports audiences to the small village of Merrydale where Jack lives with his mother live, eking out a humble living on their small dairy farm, while the mean King rules the land with an iron fist. When poor Jack and his mother hit hard times and are tricked into selling their beloved cow Daisy for a handful of worthless beans, it seems that life can’t get much worse... but this is where the magic starts. In another all-singing, all-dancing musical spectacular, Jack And The Beanstalk promises two hours of pantomime adventure, complete with a magnificent beanstalk and an amazing walking, talking 14 foot high animatronic giant which will have audiences pinned to their seats. Will Jack find the courage to defeat Giant Blunderbore and rescue his beloved Princess? Will the King ever loosen his purse strings and lighten up? And will eternal singleton Dame Trot ever find the man of her dreams?
Last year over 16,000 mums, dads, grandparents and children flocked to The Roses to enjoy a family pantomime that they will never forget, and this year’s new production by Ben Crocker is already beating sales records.
Where: Civic Hall, Bedworth
Panto: Dick Whittington and his Cat
When: December 3-28
Tickets: 024 7637 6707
Where: North Cerney Village Hall
Panto: Treasure Island
When: December 20-21
Ahoy shipmates! A rip-roaring tale of hidden treasure and misguided pirates. As much fun for adults as for the children and just a few days before Christmas so a great way to get the festive season off to a jolly start, me hearties!
Where: Evesham Arts Centre, Victoria Avenue
Panto: Dick Whittington
When: January 22-26
Tickets: 01386 44944
Phoenix Theatre Group presents its 24th annual pantomime. Follow the adventures of Dick Whittington as he travels from the West Country to London to make his fortune.
Where: The Courtyard, Edgar Street, Hereford
When: November 29-January 5
Prince Charming is holding a ball to meet the bride of his dreams? Can this be the chance that Cinders has been waiting for?
Where: Redditch Palace Theatre, Civic Square, Alcester Street
When: December 9-January 5
Take an adventurous magic carpet ride from Peking as our hero sets out to rescue his princess whisked away by the evil Abanazaar after he has stolen Aladdin’s magic lamp and his bride to be.
Where: Wantage Civic Hall, Portway
When: December 21
Tickets: 01235 515144
Fasten your seatbelts and get ready to ride the magic carpet with Aladdin and his lamp as he lands at Wantage Civic Hall for some festive family fun. Boo and hiss along with this fabulous pantomime especially for all little (and not-so-little) genie-uses in this spectacular journey across time and space to visit the magical city of Old Peking.Packed with comedy, excitement and adventure, the children will love to cheer their hero Aladdin and boo the evil Abanazar. They will roar with laughter at the antics of Wishee Washee and Widow Twanky and gasp with amazement when the Genie appears, as if by magic! The show begins at 2pm and lasts approximately two hours.
Where: Methodist Church, 40 High Street, Witney
Panto: Puss in Boots
When: January 23-26
Witney Dramatic Society is the longest running dramatic society in Witney and celebrated 65 years of entertaining the people of West Oxfordshire in 2011.
Click the gallery above to view more images from the pantomimes on this festive season.