Pantomime and Other Dames on Parade – Part TwoDate: 29 November 2009
I wonder if it’s something to do with the recession. Theatres take a high proportion of their box office earnings over the pantomime period and not every Grimm or Perrault story has the same drawing power. Also, some pantomimes are more expensive to stage than others. Adults may be paying for the seats (not to mention the ice-creams and other tempting merchandise) but children these days have high expectations for entertainment and quickly make it known if they feel short-changed.
Some of which may go to show why Cinderella is this year’s front-runner. I can’t tell you in advance which productions will have real ponies when Cinderella finally goes to the ball and which will rely on something more symbolic, nor even which will have women playing the Ugly Sisters as opposed to the usual double dame act, but Baron Hardup’s much put-upon daughter will don her glass slippers in Hertfordshire and Essex, Surrey and Norfolk, Berkshire and Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and Bedfordshire at the very least.
Watford’s Palace Theatre Cinderella opened this weekend and runs until 2 January. The Mercury Theatre, Colchester follows on 4 December, as does the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford; their runs are until 9 and 10 January respectively. Sheringham’s Little Theatre, the Hexagon in Reading and Dartford’s Orchard Theatre all start their pantomime seasons on 5 December; the Little Theatre until 2 January, the Hexagon until 3 January and the Orchard until 10 January. The Capitol in Horsham and Anvil Arts in Basingstoke both run from 10 December until 3 January.
The Grove Theatre in Dunstable is a new building, only opened in 2007.
Not that the ladies have it all their own way. Bright lads with a taste for a better life, though always for the very best of motives, also score high in the popularity stakes. Aladdin goes in search of treasure from Old Peking in the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich’s wok’n’roll production which opened this weekend and runs until 30 January. Evolution Pantomimes are the co-producers of the version at the Gordon Craig Theatre in Stevenage (until 24 January) and First Family Entertainment are the producers of the Wimbledon New Theatre staging from 4 December to 10 January. He also rubs that magic lamp in the King’s Theatre in Southsea (9 December to 3 January) and at the Theatre Royal, Windsor between 9 December and 10 January as well as in the Rhodes Arts Centre at Bishop’s Stortford from 12 December until 2 January.
Last year’s favourite boy-story was that of Dick Whittington. This year he’s been overtaken by Jack and the Beanstalk which sprouts tall at the Civic Theatre, Chelmsford in a co-production with One from the Heart) between 4 December and 3 January. As befits a Georgian playhouse, the Theatre Royal at Bury St Edmunds likes to add a historical twist to their stories so this Jack may not be quite the usual lad. Find out between 4 December and 17 January. He additionally goes on his adventures in Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park from 11 December to 10 January, briefly at Harpenden’s Public Halls 17 to 20 December) and in two Suffolk theatres – the Felixstowe Spa (19 December to 3 January) and the Regent in Ipswich (19 December to 10 January.
The City of London having shed some of its former glamour, it’s perhaps not surprising that Dick Whittington and His Cat go in search of fame as well as fortune only in Cambridge (at the Arts Theatre from 10 December to 17 January) and at the Fisher Theatre in Bungay – another gem of a place with an interesting theatrical history – from 18 December to 3 January. Shipwrecked at the Leathehead Theatre between 14 and 31 December is Robinson Crusoe while deep in Sherwood Forest – via the Theatre Royal in Norwich – Robin Hood confronts the Sheriff of Nottingham from 15 December to 17 January.
We end, as we began, with the girls. The Sleeping Beauty pricks her finger and has to await rescue in the Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch between 4 December and 16 January, at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley from 4 December until 10 January and at the Wyvern Theatre in Swindon between 12 December and 10 January. Beauty and the Beast (this Mark Andrews production is not to be confused with the Disney variation which has been on tour throughout the country for some time) are at the Hunstanton Princess Theatre from 8 December to 3 January. Snow White is our heroine at the Thameside Theatre in Grays Thurrock from 4 December until 10 January and at the Kenneth More Theatre in Ilford from 17 December to 23 January.
Back to Southeast Homepage