As most parents will find, it does get harder to inspire teenagers to want to attend a Christmas panto and recently I have been in that arena myself. In the past few years I have let them off lightly but this year I made them attend TWO on the promise that this would be the last time. Since my boys will be 16 and 14 next year it does seem right that they have more say.
On Boxing Day we attended “Jack & the Beanstalk” at the Princess Theatre and on 29 Dec we attended the Hunstanton Pantomime “Princess & the Pea” in the Town Hall so we definitely did our bit to support the local pantomimes. We had seen a few different versions of “Jack & the Beanstalk” years ago when the boys were much younger (also at the Princess) so we were very familiar with the story. However, “Princess & the Pea” was the first time we had seen this story brought to the stage and the first time my youngest had ever heard of the story so he says. It was very interesting to get the impressions of the different pantos from the teenage perspective through the eyes of my two sons. The conclusion they came to was: “Jack & the Beanstalk” was great for younger children and “Princess & the Pea” was easier for teenagers to enjoy. I think they meant that some of the one liners were above the heads of small children in Princess & the Pea but there was still a lot for all the family to enjoy. I was, however, grateful they did indeed express enjoyment at both evenings.
Fun, audience participation, some very recognisable popular tunes and lots of one liners were apparent in both pantos ending with the desired “feel good factor” in both cases. The scenery for Jack & the Beanstalk was very polished, as you would expect with the beanstalk pretty much dominating the stage as it grew! I have to mention Fleshcreep (played by Ryan Taylor) as he was among the best of the baddies I have ever seen in any panto. Dame Dotty Trott (played by Christopher Marlow) sported some incredibly OTT and garish costumes in stark contrast with the cuteness of Daisy the Cow. Ryan Taylor as Fleshcreep was inspired and highly believable as a baddie whilst Silly Billy (played by Chris Burr) held the show together drawing in considerable audience participation and got everyone singing at the end.
Jack (played by Simon Hollosi), supported by Jill (Lucy Rollason) sung brilliantly. The singing, dancing and comedy all contributed to an evening of good all round family entertainment which had great appeal for the youngest members of the audience through to the older generation including an invite for some of the young children to appear on stage and provide some help to the cast – naturally resulting in a prize for their assistance.
Princess & the Pea utilised clever “baby” puppets complete with the OTT toilet humour sound-effects that appeal to children of all ages. The illustration of fire was also very clever and the impressive dragon must have taken some work to create (it took 3 people to operate it). Somehow they incorporated “The Generation Game” conveyor belt of prizes complete with cuddly toy too! Dame Kitty Litter (aka John Giller) was her usual vivacious self and wooed Michael (from the audience) throughout the show – and it would seem Michael did not object! The Dragon Keeper (played by Elaine Verweymeren) was elegantly glamorous and an array of pretty Princesses added to the colour.
Davenport (played by Faith Boenham) made a solid sidekick to Prince Jasper (played by Tate Giller) and was a delight when it came to her solo. Floral Planter (played by Catriona Hawke) had a wonderful and very credible country accent for the part as wife to gardener, Hardy Planter (played by Paul Collins) who was the story narrator.
Some of the simplest ideas are the best and Billy Litter (played by Liz Bishopp) had a unique set of armour made of kitchen utensils which worked very well indeed. The design of the Scavenger costumes were also greatly effective yet simple. Modern undertones were woven in to the story with the use of satnav to travel through the forest.
Volunteers were sought from the children in the audience to be soldiers and an out of the mouth’s of babes moment happened for the family of one of those children when she was asked who she had come to the panto with. She proudly reeled off a list of various family members ending with “… and Mum and her customer!”, which had the audience in complete uproar for little while. Dame Kitty Litter tried matchmaking the boys and girls among the soldier volunteers with a predictable lack of success but elicited smiles and a few chuckles. How John Giller does it time and time after time I do not know but a great Dame he makes!
Although opportunities to see “Princess & the Pea” is done for this season, tickets to see “Jack & the Beanstalk” at the Princess Theatre are still available up to and including 2pm on New Year’s Day. Just contact the box office on 01485 532252.