Panto is one of the most loved things about the festive season, introducing the youngsters to this amazing art form, shouting, booing, cheering and all the interactive entertainment that it brings.
This was our first visit to the Panto at Chelmsford Theatre and we were pleasantly surprised at the evening we had. It is always a little strange as adults going to the panto without children any more but I always look and listen to the children’s reactions throughout the evening as an indication of their enjoyment.
This was a traditional panto which offered everything you expect from crazy song routines, custard pies in the face, water guns, audience participation, a sing off and great song and dance numbers. I think the audience also like it when it goes wrong and that happened a couple of times while we were watching – for me the essence of panto is when you include the audience in the mistakes and laugh at yourself.
Pete Gallagher as Fleshcreep started the evening off with a strong comical baddie that the children could boo at but were not overly scared of. I have seen pantos where children hid under their seats every time the baddie came onto stage. Pete had a tongue in cheek naughtiness which I really liked and showed true panto fun in the tongue twister section. His command of the stage and stage craft were evident throughout. Suzie Chard as Fairy Liquid felt like she had just walked straight off the Eastenders set and had a comical essence without being too saccharine sweet. This was a nice pairing.
Benjamin Durham as Jack, was everything you wanted a ‘hero’ to be. He was strong, sweet and charismatic and worked really well with Beth Scott as Jill. They both sang and moved well.
Quenn Fussybutt played by Sophie Camble was a character I’ve not seen before in Jack and the Beanstalk and while Sophie worked hard giving the self centred character, the drama and vanity she required, but I am really not sure what this character added to the overall panto.
Dame Trott played by Neil Bromley was a proper ‘blokes’ dame, and from reading the programme I understand he is the regular dame here. His nonsense style of acting was strong and his ability to interact with the audience was fun. Adam Shorey as Silly Billy was a joy to watch. I always felt he had a twinkle in his eye and gave 200% in everything he did. He felt like the friend you grew up with next door and it was clear the children in the audience related to him very strongly. For me he was the highlight of the evening.
The dancing chorus, all students from Laing Theatre school were excellent and I really enjoyed the choreography and the precision of their routines. They added so much to the overall pantomime and it was nice to see an adult chorus. I am not sure which junior chorus we saw but they all worked hard, delivered great routines and looked like they were having a great time. Daisy the Cow was delightful and I know many of the children wanted to meet Daisy afterwards. Giant Blunderbore was exactly how a traditional panto delivers a giant and again was not scary so the children could enjoy the evening without hiding or being in tears.
The costumes were good and clearly defined the characters, I would personally have like to see a bit more outrageous costumes on Dame Trott as it all felt a bit safe, but maybe that is down to Neil’s styling for his dame.
Overall, the evening was a fantastic traditional pantomime and gave lots of youngsters their introduction to live theatre and having fun in the theatre. We highly recommend this pantomime for an evening of family festive fun.