Bath favourites, Chris Harris and Jon Monie, return with the traditional mix of sublime silliness and good cheer. There are no surprises here, merely some very good jokes (and a few that should have been pensioned off years ago), mild innuendo, song, dance and lots of audience participation. It feels like a strongly local show with its references to nearby villages and topical Bath issues. The audience, from the very young to the very old, all up for a good time from the off, loved it.
Nichola McAuliffe makes a suitably hissable Wicked Queen. Chris Harris, who also directs, makes a wonderful pantomime dame in a series of fabulous frocks, each one outdoing the last in eye-popping kitsch, and Jon Monie makes a perfect foil; his deadpan delivery is one of the evening’s many pleasures. The show gets a lift whenever they appear; their Mastermind routine and their discussion of shop names are comic highlights. The dwarfs are all individually characterised and perform with panache. Special mention should also be made of the pupils of the Dorothy Coleborn School of Dance who provide some of the evening’s best moments: their forest animals are lovely, their Gangnam-style dance dressed as old ladies sheer comic brilliance.
In an era of devised shows created by directors as talented as Melly Still and Sally Cookson (which, of course, reach a very different demographic) it is pleasing to see how strong this very British popular entertainment remains. If this year’s panto isn’t quite as strong as last year’s Dick Whittington (there is the odd longueur and a couple of the dance routines look rather tired) it still provides an evening of good entertainment; and we’ll all be back for more next year.