The Muddy Ultimate Panto Guide 2016 – Oxon, Bucks and beyond!
Usually I bring my panto guide out at the beginning of December, but this year some pantos have actually started – yeah, in mid November, people!
So I’ve forced Widow Twanky to sit me down well in advance and tell me exactly what’s going on the world of Dick double-entredres, thigh-slapping and he’s-behind-yous. This is a definitive list for Bucks & Oxon with a smattering of the best from neighbouring counties and into London because, if you’re like me, one panto might not be enough!
Aladdin, Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, Fri 9 – Sat 31 Dec
Aladdin at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre edges it for me on the local pantos this year, not only because local comedian Andy Collins has become the total must-see in the area (he’s probably the real star of the show, truth be told), but because of the sheer quality of celebrity fromage surrounding him this year. Soap-royalty Michelle Collins (EastEnders, Coronation Street) is quite the coup as the Genie of the Lamp, but a masterstroke for younger kids is the inclusion of Jasmin Walia from TOWIE, and then to hoik in your granny it’s Britain’s Got Talent’s La Voix as Widow Twankey. I’m booked in, and I can’t wait.
Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, Exchange St, Aylesbury, atgtickets.com
Cinderella, Oxford Playhouse, Fri 25 Nov – Sun 8 Jan
The Oxford Playhouse never get into the ugly business of booking celebs to star in their pantos. Cinderella is written and directed by Steve Marmion, who directed Aladdin there last year and promises singing, dancing and silliness. Hard to know if it will deliver but there’s only one way to find out.
Oxford Playhouse, 11-12 Beaumont St, Oxford, oxfordplayhouse.com
Dick Whittington, Milton Keynes Theatre, Thurs 8 Dec t0 Sun 15 Jan
Steel yourself for a gazillion jokes about spotted dicks. A rival EastEnder to Aylesbury Waterside’s Michelle Collins Samantha Womack plays Queen Rat with The X-Factor finalist Stacey Solomon on belting-out-the-vocals duty as the Fairy Bowbells. Kev Orkian is the local comedian to keep it all ticking along.
Milton Keynes Theatre, 500 Marlborough Gate, Milton Keynes, Bucks, atgtickets.com
Cinderella, Wycombe Swan, Sat 10 – Sat 31 Dec
More camp than a Scout’s convention, the likes of Linda Robson, Louie Spence and Bobby Davro will be hamming it to the max at the Wycombe Swan’s run of Cinderella. Not sure where the singing will be coming from, unless Louie has a talent he’s been too shy to talk about.
Jack and the Beanstalk, Windsor, 30 Nov – 8 Jan
Perfect Housewife Anthea Turner waves her wand over Windsor this Christmas alongside Timmy Mallett as The King, and meanie Dancing on Ice judge Jason Gardiner as the Giant’s henchman. The Giant is voiced by Brian Blessed, though I don’t think he’ll be showing up on stage.
Snow White, Hexagon, Reading, Sat 10 Dec to Sun 8 Jan
Justin Fletcher provides the kiddie catnip at the Hexagon’s Snow White production, along with Paul Morse, who won the accolade of UK Panto Fans Award for best Dame – respect on that one, that’s quite an achievement. The vocals are provided by Karl Loxley, (The Voice 2015), and Sarah Accomando as Snow White.
Robinson Crusoe and The Pirate Queen, Chipping Norton Theatre, Tues 15 Nov – Sun 8 Jan
The first panto out of the blocks and already a friend of mine has gone with her kids to it! The Chippy panto is renowned for being affordable and community-minded so if you’re looking for a sweet, slightly more traditional local panto this could be it.
Snow White and Other Tales from the Brothers Grimm, Creation Theatre, North Wall, Oxford, Sat 3 December – 7 January
The North Wall can always be relied upon for a classy panto and this one come from the director of last year’s Treasure Island and 2014’s Wind in the Willowscomes. The theatre will be transformed in the round with stalls arranged around circular tables so you can get up close with the action.
The North Wall, South Parade, Oxford, thenorthwall.com
The Snow Dragon, The Stables, Milton Keynes,Fri 23 Dec – Sat 31 Dec
The Stables in Milton Keynes is promising songs and laughs and will no doubt deliver it, given that it’s the company that also produced The Gruffalo and The Snail and the Whale. It’s a one hour show so particularly good for littlies.
The Stables, Stockwell Ln, Wavendon, Milton Keynes, thestables.org
Cinderella and The Glass Slipper, Creation Theatre, The Mill, Banbury, Weds 30 Nov – 31 Dec
The fabulous Creation Theatre returns to the The Mill Arts Centre in Banbury for the second year running with this upbeat alternative to the traditional panto.
The Mill Arts Centre, Spiceball Park, Spiceball Park Rd, Banbury, themillartscentre.co.uk
Sleeping Beauty, Kenton Theatre, Thurs 15 – Weds 28 Dec
A gorgeous little theatre in Henley, this is another local panto for those who don’t want to pay the big bucks. It’s promising comedy, live music, and a feisty heroine in Princess Bea.
The Kenton Theatre, New Street, Henley-on-Thames, Oxon, kentontheatre.co.uk
Elves and the Shoemaker, JdP at St Hilda’s College, Oxford, Sat 17 – Thurs 22 Dec
Sleeping Beauty – Richmond Theatre – Fri 2 Dec to Sun 8 Jan
Maureen Lipman returns to Richmond’s panto, this year as the Wicked Fairy. She joined by CBeebies fave Chris Jarvis as Chester the Jester, returning for the third year due to popular demand. Expect big song and dance numbers, magic and, of course, bags of audience participation. Tickets: £17-£44.
Richmond Theatre, Little Green, Richmond TW9 1QJ. Tel: 0844 871 7651. atgtickets.com
Dick Whittington – New Wimbledon Theatre, Wimbledon – Fri 9 Dec to Sun 15 Jan
Oooooh, this one looks good. Seasoned dame Matthew Kelly wigs up again for this panto that’s billed as the loudest, brashest and glitziest panto out there. Former Strictly judge Arlene Phillips makes her panto debut, and Tim Vine is also in the cast. Tickets: £23-£43.
New Wimbledon Theatre, 93 The Broadway, Wimbledon, London SW19 1QG. Tel: atgtickets.com
Cinderella – London Palladium, Soho – Sat 10 Dec to Sun 15 Jan
OK, I’ve changed my mind, this one looks even better. Paul O’Grady is the Wicked Stepmother, Amanda Holden is the Fairy Godmother, Julian Clary is Dandini, Lee Mead is Prince Charming, Nigel Havers is Lord Chamberlain and Count Arthur Strong is Baron Hardup. It’s the first panto in almost 30 years to grace the stage at the Palladium, and they’re giving all they’ve got. I’m totally in.
London Palladium, 8 Argyll St, Soho, London W1F 7TE. Tel: cinderellapalladium.com
Sleeping Beauty, Hackney Empire, London, Sat 26 Nov – 8 Jan
The Hackney Empire panto is one of the most famous in London, having gone from rough and ready eastenders to the land of the beards and iphone7s. Susie McKenna and Steve Edis promise to bring this traditional fairytale bang up to date in its beautiul Victorian Theatre. No big names that I recognise (but I’ll stand corrected if you bellow at me!) but the Hackney Empire panto is always one of the most pro.