Nailsea People pantoland
Jack and the Beanstalk
Growing up a big part of my families Christmas tradition was going to the pantomime. There was just something magical about sitting in a darkened theatre watching the glitz and glamour on stage, singing, and clapping along to the music, booing the bad guys and ultimately seeing good triumph over evil.
This year I was excited to be able to take my three-year-old daughter Paige along to the Weston Playhouse for her first ever pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk.
The story is set in the village of Merrydale and centres around the loveable Jack Trott, who is desperate to impress Princess Tamara and make her his wife. So, when the wicked giant and his servant Fleshcreep kidnap her, he is determined to save her. Helped by his mother Dame Dolly and nice but dim brother Silly Simon he climbs the magic beanstalk to the giant’s kingdom in the clouds.
No one can argue that this year in particular a good dose of magic is certainly needed. The entertainment industry was hit hard by Covid and lockdowns, forcing doors to theatres up and down the country to shut for most of last year.
But in true pantomime style The Playhouse took the happenings of the past 18 or so months and turned it into entertainment. We had Bumbling Boris the giant, Fleshcreep who went out to buy teabags but ended up testing his eyesight by driving to Barnard Castle, and appearances from Chris Whitty’s flip chart and Nicola Sturgeon, as well as a round of applause for the hero of the story – the NHS. All jokes that were lost on the younger audience but elicited a laugh from the adults present.
One of the highlights for me when I visit a pantomime is always the Dame and seeing the huge array of amusing costumes worn. Dame Dolly, played by Richard Alan, was no exception, appearing in delights such as a cornetto, a neon green dress, and a dress covered in slogans relating to Covid. Richard was your perfect Dame, funny, over the top and appealing to both children and adults. And his banter with Leon, an audience member who was picked out of the front row, certainly made everyone chuckle. He worked well with Mike Goble, who played his son Silly Simon, with their enthusiasm and love of entertaining shining through. The custard pie scene was a particular highlight, with poor Mike calculating that in one show he has 45 custard pies thrown at him. Times that by three on a triple show day like today, and you must take your hat off to him! Also, he deserves great credit for the fact that he not only stars in the pantomime but also directs it.
Our hero Jack Trott is played by Derek Moran, who some might recognise as one of the main presenters of Chanel 5’s children show Milkshake. He was the perfect leading man, charming to the audience, relatable and a good singer and dancer. His love interest Princess Tamara was played by Imogen Bailey, who complimented him perfectly and had a powerful voice for all her solo songs. Gareth Davies was the perfect villain as Fleshcreep, and really seemed to enjoy getting the children to boo him.
As a big musical theatre fan I was delighted to see numbers from Chicago, Rocky Horror Show and Hairspray included, and spent most of the show singing along.
And as for Paige, pictured below with friend Freya, well she certainly enjoyed her first ever pantomime. Her favourite character was Daisy the Cow, and she was so delighted that ‘Jack saved the beautiful princess and the baddie didn’t get to marry her.’ She also thought the costumes were ‘very beautiful’ and she wants to know if we can go and see it again tomorrow!
I highly recommend going along to watch it. Young and old will love it, and it is the perfect festive treat.
Jack and the Beanstalk is at the Weston Playhouse until Sunday, January 2. Tickets from £26 adults, seniors and children £24.95. Group and family rates available. To book click HERE.
Snow White & Seven Dwarfs
IMAGES: All by Mark Dawson Photography and supplied by Bristol Hippodrome. To book tickets from £13.00 click HERE
A trip to the theatre is always a special occasion, but after nearly three years since watching a live performance and countless rearranged shows due to the pandemic, it really felt quite a big moment to be back at the Bristol Hippodrome for the start of panto season.
This year’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the coming together of the traditional fairy tale we all know and love, with some hilarious modern-day twists which made for an absolute spectacular of a show.
Set from the beginning in Brizzle Town, the audience was invited to join Princess Snow White as she meets her very own Prince Charming, or in this case, Prince Harry, and prepares for her birthday party. Except, in true panto style, it doesn’t go exactly to plan!
Charlotte Haines, playing Snow White, is everything we hope for in a princess, and has a magnificent singing voice. Similarly, Prince Harry of Hengrove, (Dale Mathurin) is quite the catch.
Birds of a Feather legend, Lesley Joseph, played the absolute perfect panto villain as Queen Dragonella, determined to kill off Snow White and regain her title as the fairest in the land.
However, The Man in the Mirror, played by Rob Rinder, is never too far away, doing what he does best – judging the evil Queen and ultimately holding her to account! This was really quite an impressive debut panto performance from the courtroom barrister, complete with plenty of dance moves showing that he still has all the moves from Strictly Come Dancing, on which he appeared and came fifth in 2016.
The star of the show, according to my children, has to be West Country comedian and panto favourite Andy Ford, aka Muddles, Snow White’s best friend, who had them doubled over with laughter for the entire show. It was literally a laugh a minute with non-stop slap stick humour for both children and adults alike. Although almost every word brought beaming smiles and just his presence on the stage was enough to set the audience off. It was a wonderful feeling to laugh so much it made you ache!
The hard work that has gone into Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was clear to see, but sometimes it’s the unplanned and unrehearsed moments that turn out to be unforgettable.
The 12 days of Christmas scene where Lesley Joseph, Rob Rinder, Andy Ford and Dale Mathurin sing about birthday gifts for Snow White was side-splittingly funny! What started off as a small faux pas from Lesley Joseph when she accidentally threw ‘five toilet rolls’ into the audience, ended up in utter giggling chaos, but for me it really just made the night. With mistaken lyrics being sung, wrong stage exits and a rather shocking wig removal all as the music continued to quicken, was just an added treat!
While, for me, the panto is all about the humour and the music, I was also wowed by the stunning sets, glittery costumes and the incredible lighting. This show is a sensory overload from start to finish and perfect for every age!
It’s been a long two years with its everlasting lockdowns and absence of birthday parties, Christmas get togethers, school plays, holidays and anything else we may have previously taken for granted, and although we’ve definitely started to feel like life has returned a little more back to normal, there’s still those everyday reminders, telling us that we’re not quite there yet.
As excited as I was to see the show, it did not compare to my 10 and seven-year-old boys, pictured with parents Trudi and Darren below, who couldn’t stop jumping around with excitement when I surprised them with the news we were off to the panto. I felt this was just one way of making up for what feels like so many ‘I’m sorry we can’t do that’, or ‘we aren’t allowed’ moments and could have cried when my eldest recently said: “Mum, I know it's not your fault, but I really, really wish, that we didn’t have to cancel anything or say 'no' anymore because of Covid.”
At the age of 10, there’s lots going on in his mind and there is often a confliction of wanting to be more grown up, but still actually being a child and the emotional rollercoaster that comes with that. For the duration of this panto though, it was so wonderful to see him fully immersed and without a care in the world.
For my seven-year-old, who was three the last time he went to a pantomime, it was almost like his first experience all over again – certainly that he will remember. Donning a Santa hat, he thought it was amazing to be able to shout out and join in, dance in his seat and was utterly mesmerised by the lights, commenting: “This is the bestest day of my life.”
As well as being a much-needed treat for the entire audience, young and old, it was clear to see that this was just as special for the cast and all those involved front of house and behind the scenes.
It felt particularly poignant to be at the opening night with Lesley Joseph at the end giving a heartfelt thank you to us all for coming along and supporting them do what they love – being on stage.
Whether you are wanting a festive treat or just the chance to do something that we’ve all long missed, I wholeheartedly recommend going to see this!
Robin Hood Bristol Old Vic
CAST PHOTO: Top from left Tom England, Dorian Simpson, Kerry Lovell, and underneath from left Katja Quist, James Newton, Jesse Meadows, below is a photo from rehearsals
Robin Hood is a girl!
Oh, perhaps I should say spoiler alert but we won’t kiss-and-tell all.
In the traditions of panto dating back to even before music hall times when it was the ‘norm’ for the principal boy to be played by a young ‘actress’ Robin (Kerry Lovell) becomes Robyn (our spelling) in this noble Bristol Old Vic Christmas production.
And while brilliantly fulfilling the role of pantomime as a musical comedy for family entertainment The Wardrobe Ensemble as a band of brothers and sisters keeps the story gender fluid and politically aware.
It’s a marvellous Middle England romp with no smutty jokes – useless you count Will Scarlett (Tom England) ’s children drinking from a water trough people have pooped in - and only a mild threat of violence.
Will’s Mission Impossible moment was mind-blowing.
It is more the time of ‘smocks, frocks and frilly socks’ according to the narrator.
It retells the folklore of robbing the rich to give to the poor with a modern twist and through the eyes of a 12-year-old awkward schoolboy called JJ (Dorian Simpson) who is much like Marcus from the 2002 film About A Boy.
With the stage as its Tardis and a plot straight from Ocean’s Eleven and (Wo)Men in Tights (green) this time-travelling genius of a production keeps the legend alive.
Our outlaw Robin yearns to travel but to the Costa de Sol not the lands of the Crusades as this fallen hero battles with selfish morals because of past trauma.
This is a swashbuckling adventure with sword fights and bow-and-arrow shootouts.
The armed combat and dungeon scenes use simple special effects - effectively - from LED lighting sticks and wooden ladders as props.The backdrop sounds come from an up-to-date playlist rather than ballads of yesteryear including the addictive pop song by Bryan Adams Everything I Do For You from the Kevin Costner 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
Wandering minstrel Tom Crosley-Thorne is multi-talented but although all
the cast were ace the standout nomination for us goes to JJ for an engaging and energetic performance.
We also loved the Sheriff of Nottingham (James Newton), aged 29 according to his annual birthday parties, who sports a hairdo much like Noel Fielding from Great British Bake Off only his is more ‘moveable’.
Take a bow too Friar Tuck (Jesse Meadows) who will be heading for AA in the new year and Maid Marion (Katja Quist), a beautiful bruiser in the Halle Berry genre.
The theatre billed the show as ‘when a 21st century kid slips through a crack in the time-space continuum, they crash into the middle of an epic fight between good and evil. It’s Sherwood Forest. The 12th century. An uneasy time of cunning thieves, dastardly villains and karaoke-singing monks. When the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham sets in motion his vicious plan for ultimate power, it’s up to Robin Hood and the Merry Crew to pull off their toughest mission yet. Can they defeat the Sheriff before it’s too late and the forest is lost forever?’.
Yep, that sums it up nicely.
Robin Hood: The Legend of the Forgotten Forest It runs until Saturday, January 8, at various times. For tickets from £8 and more information go to the online box office at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0117 987 7877. Please not strict Covid precautions are in place with the audience and staff wearing masks.
Panto dame in BBC One Show surprise
The BBC One Show featured a big thank you to Merry-Go-Round Theatre Company leader Rosemary Geoghegan.
The show included a visit to Nailsea Tithe Barn by dame Christopher Biggins.
Christopher Biggins is an entertainer, actor, presenter and personality best known as being one of the nation's favourite panto dames.
He has also appeared in a long-list of reality shows including MasterChef and Celebrity Big Brother.
Merry-Go-Round Theatre Company is run for people of all abilities and featured on the BBC show on Thursday evening, December 2.
Watch on BBC iPlayer
The Nailsea drama group was established in 2018 and its support team nominated Rosemary for the on-screen accolade.
A special mention was made of how thanks to Rosemary it kept going during the three Covid lockdowns when she hosted online gatherings on Zoom .
The group were filmed in the Tithe Barn as they rehearsed for their production of Dick Whittington which will be performed in March 2022, Covid willing.
On the television show presenter Alex Scott and Ronan Keating were joined by Dakota Johnson and Maggie Gyllenhall to chat about their new film, and Strictly judge and another panto dame Craig Revel Horwood who will star at the Bristol Hippodrome next year in Cinderella.
If you missed the broadcast you can watch it on BBC iPlayer.
Here is the link https://www.bbc.co.uk/.../m00123b6/the-one-show-02122021.
If you would like to know about this group contact Peter Dufour on Nailsea 01275 853488.
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