Panto season has just begun which means Christmas is not too far away. I love this time of year as it means I’ll be having some much needed time off work with my family. Relaxing, watching TV, stressing over the gifts and visiting loved ones. This is then followed by counting down the days to get back to work as I’ve run out of things to do and starting to get twitchy. What I’m really saying is I think it’s all about the build-up. For me, the Pantomime is one of the essential pieces of that jigsaw.
Beauty and the Beast
Before I dive into this one I’ll start by saying that this is not an “AD”. We were not given press tickets and we have paid for this all ourselves. Actually I booked up to get this year’s tickets, just before last years Panto. Something that loads of people seem to do (you can also book Christmas 2020 now too!).
Producing a pantomime such as Beauty and the Beast, for me is a huge leap. Retelling a story that was recreated as a Disney Animation, full of songs that everyone knows. Being able to strip back and find the bare bones of the story and not go too near to where others have already gone is the challenge. Qdos Entertainment has done it again and produced a stunning family pantomime, without stepping anywhere near “Be Our Guest”!
The staging, props, scenery, costumes and lighting follow the standards you’d expect in the London, West End shows. You really can tell that money from the tickets are invested in quality. I notice little daft things like, there are no creases in the painted backdrops (which I’ve seen at other theatres). The lighting design is uniformly bright in the right areas and visually interesting around the borders (you need to see it, to understand this bit). Staging is three dimensional, not just flat cut-outs. The majority of the songs in this year’s show were new lyrics to other tunes or brand new songs. I think I only spotted a couple of standard chart songs.
One of the many standout scenes during the show is where Belle is being attacked by the wolves in the woods. The production of this is epic and just when I thought it was over it steps up a notch! I won’t spoil it for you, but it worked out so well.
A Classic North East Panto
A local panto has always got some local banter. This year’s show is set in “Geordie-ville”. We meet Dick the Candlestick and Mr Tock the Clock, both of whom partially narrates the story with the poshest Jesmond accents while dipping into a Geordie Byker twang. A lovely touch that brings the polished big London-style production back to the area.
And you couldn’t mention localisms without talking about local lad Chris Haywood as Mrs Rita Potty. It really wouldn’t be the same without “Hello me bonny bairns” and “Hiya Hinny!” now would it? Chris has been a staple part of the Panto, for the last 13 years. Wearing fabulous dresses, with so many costume changes it was hard to keep count.
Danny Adams and Clive Webb
Danny and Clive are the main names in this Panto and this is their 15th year at the Theatre Royal. The program shows past advertising posters for past Pantomimes and its interesting to see their names go from tiny letters, behind a soap celebrity. To now where they are top of the poster in second-largest type after the title. A position that they truly deserve, as they put everything into the show and do so much physical humour. Although I feel is strange that they are neither the Beauty or the Beast, but as essentially the main characters in the show.
It doesn’t take much to set the audience off and I think this is mainly as it’s full of repeat visitors. A simple Danny Adams giggle starts everyone off and it builds up from there.
A classic traditional panto has a good slapstick gunge routine. Be that wallpapering, cake making or similar. Fear not we have gunge-a-plenty here. In fact, I’d go as far as saying it’s the most gunge I’ve seen in a long time, second only to a foam party I went to in Ibiza (circa 1999).
Regulars to the Theatre Royal panto will also recognise Laura Evans who plays Belle this year (last year’s Goldilocks), whose beautiful singing voice really stood out with a slight country twang. Steve Arnott as Dashing Dick the Candlestick (last years Evil Circus owner) show off his vocal skill in a polar opposite from last years accent. Wayne Smith is back as Flash Harry (last year’s Starbuck) the villain who wants Belle as his wife. Not forgetting Mick Potts too. Mick as per usual is playing the part of the “idiot”, a part that without saying a word he manages to visually portray.
The show was super entertaining, with the humour covering all ages. Our two Hoopsters (8 and 12) were chuckling away, I was smiling throughout and the grandparents sitting in front of us (who may or may not have been with kids) definitely seemed to enjoy it. It was a cracking way to start the Panto Season and Beauty and the Beast has set the bar high for other shows that open later this year.
Dates: 26th November 2019 – 19th January 2020
Box Office: 08448 11 21 22
Price: from £14 per ticket
Special Info: I probably shouldn’t say this, but we’ve been booking row F in the stalls the last couple of times as it has double the legroom!