I had to get some sort of panto pun in somewhere, so why not go for it in the title, eh? Earlier this week I paid a visit to Lighthouse Poole for its annual pantomime – a staple in many families’ Christmas traditions.
Now, I’ve not been to the panto since I was much younger so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I went along to the show with my theatre aficionado uncle who told me his ‘bingo card’ of what jokes and topical references he thought might pop up across the country this season.
Various boxes were ticked throughout the show with topics including Brexit (and the general political state of the nation), Strictly Come Dancing, and I’m A Celebrity, not forgetting at least one song from The Greatest Showman.
This year’s script, written by Chris Jarvis (also starring as a fantastic Dick Whittington) and Peter Duncan, has some absolutely cracking local jokes in there – from a dig at the recent Twin Sails Bridge trouble, to dropping in a few well-known names, it really feels like the story has made itself at home in the town of Poole.
Another tick on our theoretical bingo card went down a real treat with the audience. You have honestly not seen anything until you’re in a room of excitable children (pick’n’mix in tow) go absolutely wild for ‘Baby Shark’. It puts a festival crowd for SOME BAND to shame. While all this was happening, we had a great UV show of dancing fish, octopus, and seahorses, with bubbles floating through the air and over-sized balls being bounced through the audience.
Many traditions of pantomime were upheld throughout, I know this because I’m now an expert thanks to my uncle’s help. For example, the fairy should always enter from stage right and the villain from stage left – and neither should cross the centre line. Fairy Bow Belles (Charlotte Knowles) and King Rat (Craig Rhys Barlow) bounce off of each other so well to bring the audience into the story between scenes.
The absolute stand-out scene for me was under the decks of Alderman Fitzwarren’s (Richard Gibson) ship, the ‘Proud Mary’, where the ship’s kitchen has been built on rockers for ultimate slapstick comedic effect. I genuinely felt like I could have been on the boat with them while watching it rock from side to side.
My uncle’s work with panto doesn’t end with extensive trivia, he’s also worked alongside Chris Jarvis and Peter Duncan this year to create a series of symbol resources to ensure the show is accessible for all. The plot summaries introduce characters and give an outline of the story, as well as providing downloadable colouring sheets, flashcards, and guides on what to expect when going to the panto.
Dick Whittington is at Lighthouse, Poole, until 31st December and tickets are available here.