Panto season again (oh yes, it is)

While everybody else is winding down in time for Christmas, every year The Stage offices get busier and busier. The reduced amount of time available to get our end-of-year issues out is compounded by the fact that, for our reviews section, we’re hitting the busiest time of the year.

We try and cover as many of the professional Christmas and pantomime shows from around the UK as we can, and as they all tend to bunch their press nights into these first couple of weeks in December, it can prove a logistical nightmare.

This year, I’m doing the same three Buckinghamshire venues as I have done in previous years, but they’re also supplemented by a couple of London ones. This time last week, I saw Leicester Square Theatre’s pantomime Sinderfella. My review reflected, as best one can in 200 words, the overall sense of disappointment and frustration at a production with so many things wrong that could easily have been fixed at rehearsal stage. Unfortunately, the writer/director/producer/dame disagreed with my review.

Thankfully, since then the shows I’ve seen have been much more well-rounded. It’s never nice seeing a poor show, and with just a couple more on my list to see, it looks like my first panto of the review will be the exception rather than the rule.

This year’s panto bunch (links to the remaining shows will be added once they’re published):

  • Sinderfella, Leicester Square Theatre Basement, London

One of the keys to a raucously successful pantomime is a portrayal of barely controlled anarchy, which in turn needs a firm grasp on the reins. Unfortunately, adult panto Sinderfella has none of this…

There is something inherently difficult about turning an established stage play for children into a knockabout panto. Chesham’s effort just about manages to straddle both types of source material, but on occasion one wishes it would make up its mind what it wants to be…

Continued delays to Aylesbury’s Waterside Theatre mean that the nearby Civic Centre is now on its third, and probably final, ‘last’ pantomime before demolition. It certainly has produced one enabling the venue to go out on a high…

There is something gloriously childlike about the glee with which CBBC presenters Dan Clarkson and Jeff Turner throw themselves into their reduced retelling of JK Rowling’s series of Harry Potter books. Not for them the faux seriousness of the ‘adult’ hardback editions: they are devotees of the novels as children’s fare, and quite right too…

The importance of warming up a panto audience is highlighted by Rickmansworth’s latest rendition of Snow White, where the first act played out to a crowd seemingly unable to give anything back to the onstage cast…

All the above reviews, along with every other review I’ve written, are on my theatre reviews index page.

Author: Scott Matthewman

Formerly Online Editor and Digital Project Manager for The Stage, creator of the award-winning The Gay Vote politics blog, now a full-time software developer specialising in Ruby, Objective-C and Swift, as well as a part-time critic for Musical Theatre Review, The Reviews Hub and others.