Venue: Studio
Where: Salford

If you can’t face the panto, then head to Studio Salford for a different type of Christmas show.

Sparkle is the second production writer Sally Lawton has staged here since her company TSL productions became the theatre’s in-house company. She has created a snappy comedy, which director Mike Heath and the cast have bought to life with ease and panache.

The premise is basically the backstage antics of a panto ‘in the back end of nowhere’. Former soap star Darcy Sparkle arrives to play the lead in Snow White and proceeds to make diva demands of the theatre’s put upon dresser Meg and its spineless manager Cecil. Things get worse when she realizes that a former boyfriend is also in the production.

Darcy Sparkle, is over dramatic and selfish and Freya Marshall clearly enjoys playing up the part. Phil Minns is hilarious as the camp Jeremy, who never changes out of his Prince’s outfit. He puffs out his chest and puts on a fixed grin like vain cartoon royalty.

John McElhatton’s Cecil is also given to high drama. But his bloated speeches disappear as he becomes more and more harassed by the unfolding disaster. And through it all Meg, played by Katherine Godfrey, is a welcome figure of relative normality.Shy, but not afraid to fight her ground, she shows the ridiculousness of Darcy Sparkle through her simple honesty.

If there were to be a criticism of Sparkle it would be it winds up to fast. Minor flow aside, this is great unmissable play for adults ahead of the festive season, and there's not a dame in sight.

- Joanna Ing