We had complimentary press tickets.
Last week we headed along to the Theatre Royal to see this year’s panto – Goldilocks and the Three Bears . I think it’s fair to say that the Theatre Royal offering has an excellent reputation in the North East. I read something earlier that said that they were the fastest selling Pantomime in the country.
Theatre Royal pantos are very much part of my festive history. My grandparents loved the panto, and each year (for over 20 years) they treated their many grandchildren and great grandchildren to a panto. As our families grew, we didn’t always spend Christmas Day with our cousins , but even when we were in our twenties and thirties, we would get together for a panto. For the last 10 or so years that Christmas tradition was held at Theatre Royal. We’d been to see a couple of duds at other theatres, so when we discovered the pantos with Danny Adams and Clive Webb, and how good they were, we kept booking up time and time again.
Having been lucky enough, through blogging, to attend quite a few pantos over the past few years I really can say that the Theatre Royal’s panto is another level to any other I’ve seen. These shows are so incredibly professional, and consistently funny. Danny and Clive are such safe hands. They can tell some of the cheesiest jokes in a way which feels like you are hearing them for the first time. Some of their jokes and routines have become an institution. When explaining to my 4.5 year old where we were going I kept referring to it as the ‘Accidddddddeeeent’ one as it’s one of his favourite catchphrases of theirs. They can push the boundaries in a way which feels very inclusive of kids of all ages, despite the occasional adult joke that (fingers crossed) goes over the kids’ heads. The rest of the cast were great too. The panto villain and the dame are no question the best I’ve seen this year.
Naturally with such personal history of the Theatre Royal pantos, I was looking forward to this year’s show, Goldilocks and the Three Bears. It did not disappoint. During the interval I caught up with a friend of mine who was also there and we both said we thought it was the best panto we’d ever seen. I don’t think I can adequately put across just how funny I found it. Sometimes at pantos my enjoyment comes from the nostalgic clichés or from watching my kids enjoying themselves so much, but that was not the case at Theatre Royal. I was properly belly laughing at some of the skits.
The show is set in a circus, and includes some amazing, professional circus acts. The main storyline revolves around two rival circus owners, one of which are is our hero, whilst the other is run by the cruel arch nemises. Goldilocks and the Three Bears as a story does feature, but it’s pretty minimal, and apart from the three bears who are pretty funny, it’s a bit blink and you’ll miss it. Nevertheless, the plot gave plenty of opportunities for cheering on the goodies, whilst booing the evil circus owner.
Whilst the show was absolutely excellent (you are in for such a treat if you are going to see it), my overall feeling is that this year it was more (brilliant, family friendly) West End show than pantomime. There were a few well loved elements that missing for me. I think, because lots of people return year after year, that they might have decided to drop some panto faves so that it doesn’t feel like a carbon copy of last year. That said, it’s the only panto out of the four that I’ve seen where I haven’t come out feeling hoarse from shouting. There wasn’t any “He’s behind you” or much time spent on “Oh no it wasn’t!” “Oh yes it was”. The audience participation in this show was very funny, but the two people picked ended up in a quite elaborate skit, rather than it being about impromptu conversations with cute kids. Danny and Clive can do a great messy scene too, so I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t any of that going on, or any points in the show where we feared getting wet.
Saying all of that we were too busy laughing to really miss any of those things. We were entertained from the very beginning to the end, and the amazing slapstick in the 12 days of Christmas scene and brilliant delivery of a dangerous tongue twister more than made up for anything missing. Perhaps the only negative for me was the music. It was performed well. The band were perfect, and the singing was good, but there seemed to be a focus on original music or changing the words of known songs, so there wasn’t much chance for the audience to sing along. And unlike the other pantos I’ve been to there wasn’t much Christmassy, apart from the one festive song.
There is no question that I’d recommend this show. Particularly of families with children aged 6 and over. On our trip it was just me and my 4.5 year old. He loved it, but some of the impressive circus acts probably went on a bit too long for him. If we’d had our 3 year old with us I think she might have been bored during some of those sections.
There is no getting away from the fact that both price and availability at Theatre Royal are a huge factor. We were sitting high up in the amphitheatre (which is on the third floor), I discovered on the night that my little boy had a fear of heights that I had no idea about. Our seats cost £22 and the height meant we did feel a bit removed. That price would buy you some of the best seats at the other pantos in the region. The most expensive seats at Theatre Royal are £36 each, which is a huge cost for a family of four like ours. From cast, jokes, scenery and script I think it’s worth the high price, but perhaps that bit better suited to older children where (hopefully) you don’t have to factor in as many temper tantrums, tiredness and trips to the toilets which could distract them from the pricey show.
The show isn’t totally fully booked but you need to do a good bit of searching if you want an evening show this year. However they do have better availability for the afternoon shows which I imagine would be a great option if you are heading with younger children. Tickets are available here.
If you want to book ahead Danny promised that next year’s show, Beauty and the Beast is full of mess and the tickets are available now.
Scores on the panto doors.
We are going with a 9, just a couple more traditional panto elements and more well-known songs and I would have been giving it a perfect score. We can’t wait until next year.