The Muddy 2017 Panto Guide
It's panto season. Oh no it isn't! Oh yes it is! Oh no.... OK, enough! Here's the best of the bunch.
Get into the Christmas spirit with Muddy’s definitive guide to the best family shows in Wiltshire and beyond. A mixture of classic pantos (both nearby and further afield) with all the trimmings OR some jolly musical alternatives for those who are a bit ‘bah humbug’ about all that ‘he’s behind you’ malarkey.
Peter Pan, Wyvern Theatre, Swindon, 2-31 Dec
Set sail with your shipmates and head for Neverland this Christmas where you’ll be hooked on this swashbuckling pantomime adventure. Featuring magnificent scenery, beautiful costumes, an abundance of comedy and stunning flying sequences, it’s the perfect treat for the festive season and outstanding entertainment for all the family. It’s an adventure you won’t want to miss – hook your tickets now! Sorry…
Jack and the Beanstalk, Salisbury Playhouse, 2 Dec – 7 Jan
Written by Andrew Pollard and directed by Ryan McBryde (the duo behind the last two smash-hit Playhouse pantos), with spectacular designs by James Button (Little Shop of Horrors, Salisbury Playhouse), Jack and the Beanstalk is the must-see family entertainment this Christmas. The fabulous cast includes the return of Richard Ede who had audiences in stitches last year as Widow Twanky.
Treasure Island, Wharf Theatre, Devizes, 11-16 Dec
Avast, me hearties! “X” marks the spot in this year’s raucous Wharf Panto based on the classic by Robert Louis Stevenson. Armed with just the Map-Nav to find the treasure and his spirit of adventure, young Jim Hawkins, his true love Penny & Panto Dame Sarah the Cook join Captain Whatt and the rest of the rabble as they set sail on an adventure for a mysterious island. Little do they know, the ships crew led by Long Jane Silver, have their own questionable plans for the treasure.
Jack and the Beanstalk, Arc Theatre, Trowbridge, 5-8 Dec
A Giant of a panto! Presented by Wiltshire College’s very own Performing Arts students, this brand new pantomime takes us on the most amazing journey of the boy, Jack, and his adventures up the beanstalk and into the clouds.
Cinderella, Octagon Theatre, Yeovil, Fri 8 Dec – Sun 7 Jan
There is nothing like a dame … except for another dame. Looking good ladies, looking good. The Octagon’s famed round these parts for its pantos and this year’s production of Cinderella promises to be the best yet. It’s the theatre’s fastest-ever selling panto, so I’d get in quick if I were you.
Aladdin, Bristol Hippodrome, Sat 9 Dec – Sun 7 Jan
Hop on board the flying carpet and watch a genie pop out of a lamp, etc. You’d think Marti Pellow might be Wishee Washee (Wet Wet Wet, geddit?) but he’s the baddie Abanazar and it’s Joe Pasquale who’s WW, with Del Dingle (oops, I mean Hayley Tamaddon) as Jasmine.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Theatre Royal, Bath, Thurs 7 Dec – Sun 7 Jan
Is this the fairest panto of them all? Can’t vouch for the dame played by Nick Wilton (Mr Lister, Eastenders) but Harriet Thorpe (Carole in The Brittas Empire and Fleur in AbFab) sure is a glam evil stepmother. Whatever you do, don’t take that apple…
Dick Whittington, Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham, Fri 24 Nov to Sun 7 Jan 2018
Join Dick and his cat as he travels from Gloucester to London to make his fortune and runs into a crazy cast of characters on his journey from zero to here. Molly McGuire plays Dick, with Ben Goffe as Tommy the Cat and, of course, expect to see Tweedy the Clown. Regulars to the Everyman panto and Gifford’s Circus will know his genius, but if you haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing Tweedy, he’s like a comic book character come to life. Brilliant basically. Always a sell-out, be sure to book soon, as Everyman chief exec Mark Goucher says, “It wouldn’t be Christmas without a great family pantomime.” everymantheatre.org.uk
Sleeping Beauty, The Roses Theatre, Tewkesbury, Sat 2 to Sun 31 Dec
The Roses supremo writer and director Ben Crocker once again injects stage magic into a traditional fairy tale, this year Sleeping Beauty. Expect all the usual panto fun and don’t sit in the front row if you’re shy! I was caught here once and blushed up to my eyebrows, shrinking violet that I am. rosestheatre.org
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, Fri 8 – Sun 31 Dec
Su Pollard, you say? (*immediately books all the tickets*). Say hi-de-hi – or should that be hi ho hi ho hi ho? – to the Wicked Queen, who I’ll hazard a guess will be, ahem, vibrantly attired. Mirror mirror on the wall, is this the campest panto of them all? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way.
Waterside Theatre, Exchange St, Aylesbury, Bucks, atgtickets.com
Jack and the Beanstalk, Wycombe Swan, Sat 9 – Sun 31 Dec
Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of a boyband alum. Simon Webbe from Blue – no kidding! – stars as our bean-obsessed hero, alongside Britain’s Got Talent winner Ashleigh Butler, CBeebies star Chris Jarvis and veteran panto dame extraordinaire Nigel Ellacott, who notches up this 43rd panto run. Blimey, he’s keen.
Wycombe Swan Theatre, St Mary St, High Wycombe, Bucks, wycombeswan.co.uk
Jack and the Beanstalk, Oxford Playhouse, Fri 24 Nov – Sun 7 Jan 2018
Jack the lad is also bean-counting in Oxford this festive season, at the Playhouse. This one isn’t a celeb-fest but nevertheless looks very sweet and is suitable for very young children.
Oxford Playhouse, 11-12 Beaumont St, Oxford, oxfordplayhouse.com
Robin Hood, Kenton Theatre, Henley, Fri 15 – Thurs 28 Dec
We’re promised a madcap, medieval romp in this Immersion Theatre Company production of Robin Hood. Will our hero win the heart of Maid Marion? Will the dastardly sheriff of Nottingham get his comeuppance? No spoilers, please, or I’ll shoot you with my bow and arrow.
The Kenton Theatre, New Street, Henley-on-Thames, Oxon, kentontheatre.co.uk
Sleeping Beauty, The Theatre Chipping Norton, Tues 14 Nov – Sun 14 Jan
I got insanely drunk on my 18th birthday but Sleeping Beauty celebrated hers by pricking her finger on a spinning wheel and falling asleep for hundreds of years. Bummer, eh! This promises to be a curveball, time-travelling rendering of the classic tale, spanning from Tudor times to the flower-powered late ’60s.
The Theatre Chipping Norton, 2 Spring Street, Chipping Norton, Oxon, chippingnortontheatre.com
Peter Pan, The Hexagon Reading, Sat 9 Dec to Sun 7 Jan
Mr TUUUUUUUUUMBBBBBLE! The irrepressible CBeebies demi-god Justin Fletcher may make you reach for the gin bottle but any small people in your charge will surely go insane in the membrane at the prospect of seeing him live on stage. He plays hapless trainee pirate Mr Smee in his sixth panto for The Hexagon.
The Hexagon Theatre, Queens Walk, Reading, readingarts.com
Pinocchio, Queens Park Arts Centre and the Limelight Theatre, Aylesbury, Fri 8 Dec
Liar liar, pants on FIRE!! Sorry, you just caught me heckling at this new production of porky pie-specialist Pinocchio at the charming Queens Park Art Theatre in Aylesbury. This year’s show features the students of the Susan Diane School of Dance.
Queens Park Arts Centre and the Limelight Theatre, Queen’s Park, Aylesbury, qpc.org
FAMILY CHRISTMAS SHOWS…
Little Robin Redbreast, Salisbury Playhouse, 11-31 Dec
Christmas is coming and little Robin is very excited. To help him count down the days, Mummy and Daddy have given him an advent calendar. Behind every window is a picture and every picture tells a story. Join Robin as he links the pictures together on a magical quest towards Christmas Day. From the writers of last year’s The Night Before Christmas, this brand new production will be full of song, magic and surprises for all the family.
A Christmas Carol, Salisbury Playhouse, 19-23 Dec
Dickens’ mystical Christmas fable is brought to life by Olivier Award-winner Guy Masterson, veteran of smash hit solo shows including Under Milk Wood and Animal Farm. Famed for bringing multiple characters to vivid life, Masterson recreates Scrooge, Marley, the Fezziwigs, Tiny Tim and more in an enchanting performance that will dazzle and linger long in the memory. Guaranteed to get you into the Christmas Spirit – in many more ways than one!
Santa Clause and the Magical Christmas Journey, Wyvern Theatre, Swindon, 14-24 Dec
Snow Play, Pound Arts, Corsham, Sun 16 Dec
What would you do if one year Winter decided to stay and moved into your house? Well that’s what happens in this snowy spectacular show where you are guaranteed a white Christmas. In this wonderful, interactive play you can join the showdown between Winter and Spring over who gets to stay and who has to go away… snowball fight included.
The Little Match Girl, Pound Arts, Corsham, 23-24 Dec
The Little Matchgirl and Other Happier Stories, Bristol Old Vic, Thurs 30 Nov – Sun 14 Jan
After premiering up at Shakepeare’s Globe in London, the critically acclaimed production comes to Bristol. An impoverished girl strikes a series of matches to keep warm on the icy cold streets; each time she escapes into a different Hans Christian Andersen story. Expect cockles to be warmed.
Beauty and the Beast, Tobacco Factory, Bristol, Thur 30 Nov – Sun 14 Jan
As you can tell from the pic, not a another stage version of the Disney film. This is a quirky re-telling of the classic French fairy tale, reminding us that beauty (or beastliness) is only skin deep. Littlies can enjoy the story of family, feathers and fitting in, in The Ugly Duckling (Sun 10 Dec–Sun 14 Jan).
The Little Mermaid, the egg, Bath, Thurs 7 December – Sun 14 Jan
This is a Hans Christian Andersen and mythical Cornish Mermaid of Zennor mash up. Morgan lives at the bottom of the ocean in a shipwrecked 1950s cruise liner and surfaces in a ’80s yacht party on the English Riviera. A period drama-cum-rom com with a jig-along classic ’80s pop soundtrack.
Snow Globe, Colston Hall, Bristol, Fri 1 Dec – Sun 7 Jan
Kid Carpet (that’s him above) used found objects – Casio keyboards, cardboard, broken toys, sellotape – to make ‘kiddy disco punk’. Here he shakes a storyteller’s snow globe to create a musical mix up of tales, rhymes and stories for 3 to 7 year olds.
Christmas Tales with Grandad, Gloucester Guildhall, Gloucester, Tue 5 to Sat 9 Dec
You’ll feel like you’re sitting by the fireside with your grandad at this Christmas show which features festive stories, including a special pair of pants, the mystery of the snowflake necklace and the mischievous shenanigans of a fantasy gnome. Perfect for your little ones and adults alike. venues.gloucester.gov.uk
Little Blue Monster: Lost and Found, Bacon Theatre, Cheltenham, Wed 13 December
Based on Oliver Jeffers’ children’s story about a boy who finds a penguin on his doorstep, this sweet tale of friendship follows the boy’s efforts to help the penguin find its way back home, even if it means rowing all the way to the South Pole. Puppetry, songs and music bring the story to life and will captivate the over 3s and under 83s. bacontheatre.ticketsolve.com
Pinocchio and the Christmas Wish, Cheltenham Playhouse, Cheltenham, Sat 16 to Fri 29 Dec
Capturing the magic of being a child on Christmas Eve, waiting for your wishes to be granted, this sweet retelling of the Pinocchio story is a perfect outing for little ones. The toy workshop is full of impossible dreams: Pinocchio wants nothing more than to be a real boy, the Tin Soldier wants to win the heart of the Paper Ballerina and the Rag Doll wishes only for the Tin Soldier to notice her. However, legend tells that every Christmas the mysterious Toymaker will grant a wish to the most deserving of toys, and this Christmas they will set out on a daring journey to find their hearts’ desires and change their lives forever… Produced by Rolling Stock Theatre Company, it’s written and directed by Suzanna Segura with original music by James Lark. cheltplayhouse.org.uk
A Christmas Carol, Berkeley Castle, Berkeley, Wed 29 Nov to Fri 8 Dec
The perfect outing to get you in the mood for Christmas, Dickens’ touching tale of the transformation of Ebeneezer Scrooge through the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future is brought to the stage by Split Second Productions, who are regulars at Gloucestershire’s most historic castle, which is possibly home to a few ghosts itself… berkeley-castle.com
A Christmas Carol, North Wall Theatre, Oxford, Sat 2 Dec – Sat 6 Jan
The ever-excellent Creation Theatre group promise a totally different take on Dickens, with their reboot of A Christmas Carol. Only a total Scrooge wouldn’t warm to this one, I reckon. This year they’re offering cabaret seating, so you sit round a circular table as a group.
The North Wall Arts Centre, South Parade, Summertown, Oxford , thenorthwall.com
Morgan & West: A (sort of ) Christmas Carol Magic Show! Pegasus, Oxford, Tues 5 – Sun 24 Dec
More Chuck D – no, not him from Public Enemy, I mean Charles Dickens – as Oxford’s Pegasus theatre also tackle A Christmas Carol this season. This version is presented by magicians Morgan & West (as seen on The Next Great Magician (ITV), Penn & Teller: Fool Us(ITV), and The Slammer (CBBC)).
Pegasus, Magdalen Rd, Oxford, pegasustheatre.org.uk
The Wind in the Willows, Mill Arts Centre, Banbury, Sat 9 – Sat 30 Dec
Not sure I fancy messing about on the river at this time of year to be honest, so I’ll leave that to Rat and Mole. This version of Kenneth Grahame’s classic is presented by Creation Theatre in collaboration with
The Mill Arts Centre, Spiceball Park, Spiceball Park Rd, Banbury, themillartscentre.co.uk
The Nutcracker and The Mouse King, Cornerstone Arts, Didcot, Fri 15 – Sat 30 Dec
Cornerstone Arts tackles the lesser-known Nutcracker and the Mouse King in their festive musical show, performed by actors. In case you can’t remember this story (I couldn’t): Maria and family arrive at a shonky old toyshop one Christmas Eve, and after dark all the toys come to life, sing, dance and try to find a way to defeat the miserly Mouse King.
Cornerstone Arts Centre, 25 Station Rd, Didcot, cornerstone-arts.org
Miki, Norden Farm Centre for Arts, Maidenhead, Tues 21 Nov – Sat 30 Dec
One for little ‘uns, this sweet puppetry show is based on Stephen Mackey’s children’s book. The titular Miki embarks on a magical adventure in search of a star and learns about friendship along the way. Awww.
Norden Farm Centre for Arts, Maidenhead, Berks, nordenfarm.events
Dick Whittington, London Palladium, Sun 10 Dec – Fri 12 Jan
Filed under ‘go big or go home’, we have London Palladium’s offering, starring Julian Clary and Elaine Paige. Oh yeah! And you thought Su Pollard was camp. Fans of ’80s cheesiness will be thrilled to hear that Gary Wilmot co-stars alongside Nigel ‘The Charmer’ Havers.
London Palladium, Argyll St, London, dickwhittingtonpalladium.com
Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella, Sadler’s Wells, London
Matthew Bourne’s productions are always stunning and this is no exception. He transposes the story of Cinderella to London during the Blitz, rebooting it as a wartime romance between our heroine and an RAF pilot. The reviews have been of the rave variety, with Lez Brotherston’s sumptuous costumes and sets winning Olivier Award.
Sadlers Wells, Rosebery Av, London EC1, sadlerswells.com
Cinderella on Ice, Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, London, Fri 17 Nov – Mon 1 Jan
No rest for Cinders! Here she is again, this time donning ice-skates, as one of Hyde Park Winter Wonderland’s new attractions. In this show, her slinky blade moves attract the amorous attentions of the Lord Mayor’s son, much to her step-sisters’ annoyance. There’s loads of whizzy lifts, jumps and throws, plus wowzers special effects.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, hydeparkwinterwonderland.com
The Little Match Girl, Sadlers Wells, 13-24 December
Our unlikely heroine is an impoverished young street girl, who wanders the ever-darkening streets with just one final match to keep her warm on a cold Christmas Eve. Beautifully recreated through dance, song and live atmospheric music, The Little Match Girl is a timeless fable about kindness and helping others, which will enthral young children and the whole family alike.
Father Christmas, Lyric Hammersmith, 22 Nov – 24 Dec
Raymond Briggs Father Christmas. Back for another brilliant year, join Father Christmas as he gets ready for his busiest day of the year, Christmas Eve. Watch as he prepares his Christmas deliveries, feeds his reindeer and finally takes flight into the snowy night. Full of merry touches with plenty of live music, songs and playful puppetry. A perfect festive treat for under 6s and their families.