I’ve never been one for Christmas, adopting the Scrooge attitude of bah humbugging any attempt at merriment - until this year. Folks, I’ve seen four pantos in five days and I think it’s safe to say that the Ghost of Christmas present has restored my Yuletide spirit.
What a wonderful week I’ve had.
Monday started out with Peter Pan at The Waterside, Aylesbury. There was less swashbuckling and more rumba across the quarter-decks as roly-poly Strictly Come Dancing star Russell Grant climbed on board the Jolly Roger for some panto fun.
I think the boys in the audience felt that their only panto had been boarded by pink pirates from another parallel universe but they enjoyed watching the scantily clad Tiger Lily flash a cheek or two in her skimpy Indian costume.
There were also one or two celebs in the audience including dancer Brendan Cole, who happily posed for pictures with gushing middle aged women, the magical Paul Zenon who sadly kept the sleight-of-hand out of view, and 1980s pop god and Spandau Ballet frontman Tony Hadley.
Tuesday night at Milton Keynes saw the outrageously camp Louie Spence grab the spotlight from poor Cinders. He almost put the Uglies into the shade but he had all the right moves as far as the audience was concerned. There were one or two young girls sitting near me who were baffled by all the gay references but I’m sure mum and dad explained all when they got home.
It was fun watching the show’s dancers compete with the highly competitive Spence. One lad was trying so hard that he high-kicked himself in the back of the head and another almost dropped one of the girl dancers.
Wednesday saw me head to Watford for Mother Goose. I thought it was a bit brave of the costume department to put the leading man, Billy, in Luton Town socks but the predominantly schools audience didn’t seem to notice (he may have been lynched at the stage door after the show but I haven’t heard).
There was a surprising number of pensioners out enjoying the show although they were given a special dispensation to give the audience participation slot a miss. The rest of us were up and down like jack rabbits to make fools of ourselves singing Goosey Goosey and we had a great time doing it.
Friday was Snow White in Dunstable. It’s not as glittery as some of the others but it’s a good family show that was only marred by yours truly getting wet from a super soaker and the dame’s mic picking up static all night.
All four pantos featured Psy’s Gangnam Style song which is the bit hit for this year and Dunstable’s audience wins the gold medal for its enthusiasm to join in this ridiculous dance.
Dunstable was also the only one to throw a few goodies out into the audience. Catching the odd sweet used to be a big thing in my day but perhaps the health and safety killjoys have put a stop to it.
My week will be book-ended with two family shows. The first, A Christmas Carol, at the Royal & Derngate, was an absolutely magical way to start my festive fun. This week I’m off to The Secret Garden at The Stables, MK, and I can’t wait. This venue, which spends the year hosting gigs, always comes up with something rather special for its once-a-year stage productions (we had talking goats with Heidi!).
While I’m not recommending an intensive session of panto (not that the bank balance could take it) I would advocate taking the family to something over the season. It’s a great way to kick off Christmas-time. You could even think about supporting local panto. All the am-dram groups are staging something in January. Check with your local venues for titles, tickets and times.
And if you want to be really festive - then come and join everyone in singing carols around the Christmas tree in Leighton Buzzard High Street at 7.30pm on Christmas Eve.
Merry Christmas everyone.