There is something very special about
the Devonshire Park pantomime, something that is difficult to put
into mere words, but which you feel as soon as you walk through the
foyer doors. It’s a combination of the very warm welcome, the
familiarity of everything and, at the same time, a palpable air of
uncertainty that makes it feel almost like spending Christmas Day
with the family.
Helping that feeling along is the
simply brilliant script by Chris Jordan and Ian Marr. With
up-to-the-minute topical references interspersed with jokes that are
older than I am, it hits the spot from the moment that Fairy
Fortywinks Jenna Boyd explodes onto the stage, with some very dodgy
rhyming couplets, and carries us through to the wonderfully
The success of the Eastbourne pantomime
also rests squarely on the shoulders of the experienced, and in some
cases very familiar, cast members; North London comedian Tucker is
a perfect example. With a wealth of panto experience behind him, he
takes on the role of Chester the Jester and, with his superb comic
skill and a very engaging personality, he soon has the, rather
reserved, audience joining in very loudly.
Performing in his second Jordan
pantomime is Adam McNab as Prince Valiant. His chiselled jaw and
superb singing voice make him every inch the hero and, together with
Sasha Wareham as Princess Belle, they soon have the audience
gripped in their tale of young love. Taking the role of Belle’s
father, King Clarence, is David Alder who shows off his remarkable
baritone voice in a few numbers including an unexpected mash-up of
Russ Abbot’s 80s party hit "Atmosphere "and the
Black Eyed Peas' hit "I’ve got a feeling".
Bernie Nolan is the headliner and,
despite the illness that has forced the cancellation of the Nolans'
final tour together, she seems in great form as Carabosse. Although a
little hesitant at times, she soon relishes the role of the “baddie”,
but she could do with a little more volume on her microphone to
really scare the audience.
Holding the whole show together, as he
has done for nine years now, is the wonderful Martyn Knight as Dame
Nellie Night Nurse. Wearing a simply stunning array of costumes,
created “in house” by Shelley Stevens and Sam Hart, every
entrance he makes is a spectacular event, with the “striptease”
scene at the beginning of Act Two an incredible highlight.
I mentioned earlier that the script is
what makes this show so marvellously special; this year’s version
proves that, as does the way in which, thanks to musical director
Robert Cousins, well-known and modern songs are completely
re-written. Robbie Williams gets the treatment with his latest hit
"Candy" as do David Bowie and The Supremes with
the tremendously clever "Ground control to Chester’s Mum,
and "Chop, in the name of love" which accompanies
the removal of the 100-year old briars around the palace.
Together with the special effects,
brilliantly designed lighting, pyrotechnics and a stunning scene with
Carabosse summoning up … (no, I won’t spoil the surprise) this
all ensure that, yet again, the Devonshire Park has the South East’s