With Brighton, its more famous neighbour down the coast having given up on pantomimes, Eastbourne is the place in East Sussex to catch a glimpse of traditional Christmas entertainment. While many pantomimes rely on Z-list celebrities to provide audience appeal, the Eastbourne production relies on traditional values, with plenty of opportunity for audience participation, providing a pretty good show.
The starting point for any worthwhile pantomime is a decent dame and Martyn Knight as Dame Trott was all that a good dame should be; a great sense of timing, the ability to ad lib, good rapport with the audience and, of course, the ability to wear a variety of outrageous costumes. He is ably supported by Carl Patrick as Simple Simon – the pair of them being particularly effective in their scenes together – easily coping with fluffed lines and enjoying considerable rapport with the audience.
Emma Barton as Jack is an engaging presence with a decent singing voice - pretty much all you could want from a hero – she even slapped her thigh introducing herself. Needless to say, there’s a reference to her appearances on EastEnders but this is not milked <i>ad infinitum</i>.
The musical score was a bit strange, pantomimes often feature recent pop songs, this show focused on a lot of songs from the 60s. There also seemed to be a shortage of topical jokes – references to the credit crunch and quantitative easing could have been carried in last year’s show.
The show is sponsored by the local hardware store – which means references to buying goods from there crops up from time to time. This is something that seems a little odd – although we should be grateful it’s not the local undertaker.
If you like your pantomimes traditional, with heroes to cheer and villains to boo, the Eastbourne one is a pretty good entrant, the only slight downside is that it’s quite long – not far short of three hours – which might be a bit daunting for very young audience members but this is a minor quibble: writer and director Chris Jordan delivers the goods and makes sure everyone goes home happy – despite the snow.