The Muddy 2017 Panto Guide
It's panto season. Oh no it isn't! Oh yes it is! Oh no.... OK, enough! Here's the best of the bunch.
Get into the Christmas spirit with Muddy’s definitive guide to the best family shows in Bucks, Oxon and beyond. A mixture of classic pantos (both nearby and further afield) with all the trimmings OR some jolly musical alternatives for those who are a bit ‘bah humbug’ about all that ‘he’s behind you’ malarkey.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, Fri 8 – Sun 31 Dec
Su Pollard, you say? (*immediately books all the tickets*). Say hi-de-hi – or should that be hi ho hi ho hi ho? – to the Wicked Queen, who I’ll hazard a guess will be, ahem, vibrantly attired. Mirror mirror on the wall, is this the campest panto of them all? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way.
Waterside Theatre, Exchange St, Aylesbury, Bucks, atgtickets.com
Jack and the Beanstalk, Wycombe Swan, Sat 9 – Sun 31 Dec
Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of a boyband alum. Simon Webbe from Blue – no kidding! – stars as our bean-obsessed hero, alongside Britain’s Got Talent winner Ashleigh Butler, CBeebies star Chris Jarvis and veteran panto dame extraordinaire Nigel Ellacott, who notches up this 43rd panto run. Blimey, he’s keen.
Wycombe Swan Theatre, St Mary St, High Wycombe, Bucks, wycombeswan.co.uk
Jack and the Beanstalk, Oxford Playhouse, Fri 24 Nov – Sun 7 Jan 2018
Jack the lad is also bean-counting in Oxford this festive season, at the Playhouse. This one isn’t a celeb-fest but nevertheless looks very sweet and is suitable for very young children.
Oxford Playhouse, 11-12 Beaumont St, Oxford, oxfordplayhouse.com
Robin Hood, Kenton Theatre, Henley, Fri 15 – Thurs 28 Dec
We’re promised a madcap, medieval romp in this Immersion Theatre Company production of Robin Hood. Will our hero win the heart of Maid Marion? Will the dastardly sheriff of Nottingham get his comeuppance? No spoilers, please, or I’ll shoot you with my bow and arrow.
The Kenton Theatre, New Street, Henley-on-Thames, Oxon, kentontheatre.co.uk
Sleeping Beauty, The Theatre Chipping Norton, Tues 14 Nov – Sun 14 Jan
I got insanely drunk on my 18th birthday but Sleeping Beauty celebrated hers by pricking her finger on a spinning wheel and falling asleep for hundreds of years. Bummer, eh! This promises to be a curveball, time-travelling rendering of the classic tale, spanning from Tudor times to the flower-powered late ’60s.
The Theatre Chipping Norton, 2 Spring Street, Chipping Norton, Oxon, chippingnortontheatre.com
Cinderella, Milton Keynes Theatre, Sat 9 Dec – Sun 14 Jan
Given a new lease of credibility by Strictly, Brian Conley is the headliner here with Gok Wan (where’s he been hiding recently?) in Milton Keynes’ version of Cinderella. Conley’s jovial humour and delivery is made for panto so my bet is it’ll be a good ‘un.
Milton Keynes Theatre, 500 Marlborough Gate, Milton Keynes, atgtickets.com
Peter Pan, The Hexagon Reading, Sat 9 Dec to Sun 7 Jan
Mr TUUUUUUUUUMBBBBBLE! The irrepressible CBeebies demi-god Justin Fletcher may make you reach for the gin bottle but any small people in your charge will surely go insane in the membrane at the prospect of seeing him live on stage. He plays hapless trainee pirate Mr Smee in his sixth panto for The Hexagon.
The Hexagon Theatre, Queens Walk, Reading, readingarts.com
Pinocchio, Queens Park Arts Centre and the Limelight Theatre, Aylesbury, Fri 8 Dec
Liar liar, pants on FIRE!! Sorry, you just caught me heckling at this new production of porky pie-specialist Pinocchio at the charming Queens Park Art Theatre in Aylesbury. This year’s show features the students of the Susan Diane School of Dance.
Queens Park Arts Centre and the Limelight Theatre, Queen’s Park, Aylesbury, qpc.org
FAMILY CHRISTMAS SHOWS…
A Christmas Carol, North Wall Theatre, Oxford, Sat 2 Dec – Sat 6 Jan
The ever-excellent Creation Theatre group promise a totally different take on Dickens, with their reboot of A Christmas Carol. Only a total Scrooge wouldn’t warm to this one, I reckon. This year they’re offering cabaret seating, so you sit round a circular table as a group.
The North Wall Arts Centre, South Parade, Summertown, Oxford , thenorthwall.com
Stick Man, The Stables, Milton Keynes, Mon 18 – Sun 24 Dec
Will he ever get back to the family tree? Let’s hope so – I don’t fancy watching hundreds of children crying as poor old Stick Man gets used as kindling. This touching festive story about the power of family love was one of my children’s favourite Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler books, and Scamp Theatre’s production has received rave reviews on previous runs.
Morgan & West: A (sort of ) Christmas Carol Magic Show! Pegasus, Oxford, Tues 5 – Sun 24 Dec
More Chuck D – no, not him from Public Enemy, I mean Charles Dickens – as Oxford’s Pegasus theatre also tackle A Christmas Carol this season. This version is presented by magicians Morgan & West (as seen on The Next Great Magician (ITV), Penn & Teller: Fool Us(ITV), and The Slammer (CBBC)).
Pegasus, Magdalen Rd, Oxford, pegasustheatre.org.uk
The Wind in the Willows, Mill Arts Centre, Banbury, Sat 9 – Sat 30 Dec
Not sure I fancy messing about on the river at this time of year to be honest, so I’ll leave that to Rat and Mole. This version of Kenneth Grahame’s classic is presented by Creation Theatre in collaboration with
The Mill Arts Centre, Spiceball Park, Spiceball Park Rd, Banbury, themillartscentre.co.uk
The Nutcracker and The Mouse King, Cornerstone Arts, Didcot, Fri 15 – Sat 30 Dec
Cornerstone Arts tackles the lesser-known Nutcracker and the Mouse King in their festive musical show, performed by actors. In case you can’t remember this story (I couldn’t): Maria and family arrive at a shonky old toyshop one Christmas Eve, and after dark all the toys come to life, sing, dance and try to find a way to defeat the miserly Mouse King.
Cornerstone Arts Centre, 25 Station Rd, Didcot, cornerstone-arts.org
Miki, Norden Farm Centre for Arts, Maidenhead, Tues 21 Nov – Sat 30 Dec
One for little ‘uns, this sweet puppetry show is based on Stephen Mackey’s children’s book. The titular Miki embarks on a magical adventure in search of a star and learns about friendship along the way. Awww.
Norden Farm Centre for Arts, Maidenhead, Berks, nordenfarm.events
Dick Whittington, London Palladium, Sun 10 Dec – Fri 12 Jan
Filed under ‘go big or go home’, we have London Palladium’s offering, starring Julian Clary and Elaine Paige. Oh yeah! And you thought Su Pollard was camp. Fans of ’80s cheesiness will be thrilled to hear that Gary Wilmot co-stars alongside Nigel ‘The Charmer’ Havers.
London Palladium, Argyll St, London, dickwhittingtonpalladium.com
Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella, Sadler’s Wells, London
Matthew Bourne’s productions are always stunning and this is no exception. He transposes the story of Cinderella to London during the Blitz, rebooting it as a wartime romance between our heroine and an RAF pilot. The reviews have been of the rave variety, with Lez Brotherston’s sumptuous costumes and sets winning Olivier Award.
Sadlers Wells, Rosebery Av, London EC1, sadlerswells.com
Cinderella on Ice, Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, London, Fri 17 Nov – Mon 1 Jan
No rest for Cinders! Here she is again, this time donning ice-skates, as one of Hyde Park Winter Wonderland’s new attractions. In this show, her slinky blade moves attract the amorous attentions of the Lord Mayor’s son, much to her step-sisters’ annoyance. There’s loads of whizzy lifts, jumps and throws, plus wowzers special effects.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, hydeparkwinterwonderland.com