So – we went to the panto (oh yes we did!). Snow White awaited us at the Bournemouth Pavilion, with Chris Jarvis (from Cbeebies) as the irrepressible Muddles, and Su Pollard as the Wicked Queen.
We hadn’t told the children where we were going so late on a school night (*gasp* Bad Parents), and as we walked up the steps they read the posters in excitement. Except the cynical almost-11-year-old, who smiled politely, but I could see from his face was thinking “Chris? From Cbeebies? Really??”
So we found our seats, the curtain rose, and whoosh – we were away.
Snow White (Rebecca Marks) was beautiful and loveable. The Wicked Queen was very naughty – but too funny to be too scary. The Prince (Jonathon Parkin) looked oh-so-dashing in his tights, singing well enough to still the entire (noisy, excited) audience, and Ramsbottom (Michael Chance) was predictably slapstick funny.
This was panto as we all remember it, and hope to see it again with our own children. The story was true to its traditional roots, with some deceptively simple scene changing. The singing was excellent and frequent, the comedy was obvious and slapstick enough for the smallest child, with enough mature references to have the adults giggling too. The cast were clearly having a blast, and the fun was oh-so-contagious.
Chris Jarvis was absolutely excellent – by his second entrance even the cynical no.1 son was bellowing ‘Hiya Muddles!’ with his thumbs in the air. The obligatory local references were bandied around, the banter with a couple of hecklers was excellent, and surprisingly for me Chris Jarvis’ impersonations stole a lot of the show – he won my boys hearts with his Simpsons voices, and the more mature members of the audience couldn’t contain themselves as he became Peggy from Hi De Hi – whilst bickering with the Wicked Queen Su Pollard herself. Completely lost on the children of course, but the ensuing ad lib-ing was pure comedy gold.
For more than two hours (with intermission and slight technical hitch causing a 2nd delay) we were all rapt. Even 2yr old Ella was entranced, oooh-ing at the ‘Pincess’, shouting and thumbs-up-ing at Muddles, and Boo-ing at the Queen. She jumped at the surprises, hid her face as Snow White was in danger in the woods and bellowed ‘It’s BEHIND YOU’ loud enough for the grandmother two rows in front of us to turn round and laugh at her. Two hours past her bedtime, and she was sitting still, totally entranced and having the time of her life.
It’s difficult to review without the clichés – fun, banter, slapstick, handsome, beautiful, wicked… but then, isn’t that Panto at its finest? No big soap stars here – just truly great entertainers keeping their audience very very happy. The dwarfs were great, the dancers excellent, the costumes perfect, the much-loved Disney classic songs mixed up with many others… as we left, the tired faces all had huge unstoppably beaming smiles. It really was the most tremendous night, and one neither the children nor we will forget for a very very long time. Oh no we won’t.