ONCE AGAIN the Gatehouse Theatre is offering a rock and roll panto to charm all the family this Christmas – but it does not feel like a repeat of last year at all.
The format may be tried and tested - to great acclaim –in recent years but it has still managed to stay fresh and original.
Where else could you find traditional slapstick and well-loved panto catchphrases combined with chances to headbang and references to cult TV shows like Monty Python and One Man and his Dog? There is even a nod to Alan Partridge, executed to a bucket of laughter from me and confused looks from the surrounding youngsters.
There was plenty for them however – the excited schoolchildren loved the ample opportunities to join in with shouts of “he’s behind you” and “oh no it isn’t” and the Beast’s rude table manners sparked showers of laughter.
The voluptuous dame Bessie Bigbreaths (played with untiring energy by Andrew Williams, gave the grown-ups plenty of saucy quips which sailed over the heads of the little ones.
And those who love their music were spolit for choice with a mix of 50s rock and roll, 60s Motown, 70s disco and 80s rock and indie with some rock rap from the Beastie Boys thrown in for good measure.
Michael Fletcher as Prince Promising, cursed to become a hideous beast after spurning the advances of a wicked witch, showed great versatility in his bid to woo Beauty, from a respectable rendition of Guns ‘N’ Roses’ Sweet Child of Mine to a soulful version of Nillson’s Without You.
Jessica Dyas as Beauty was no fluffy heroine – her version of You Can’t Hurry Love was belted out with a generous helping of feisty girl power.
The supporting roles showed some appealing contemporary references – Beauty’s shallow sisters Luxury and Vanity (Lila Clements and Liz Singleton) could have stepped straight out of The Only Way is Essex while Stuart King (Desperate Dan) will warm the heart of boy band fans with his sweet singing.
The Gatehouse is continuing its mission to make panto something for everyone to enjoy – from tots to cynical adults who feel they have seen it all before. Watching the dancing in the aisles at the end of the show it appeared the mission was accomplished.