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Panto Highlights

If like me, you’re still wincing at the thought of Christmas and puzzled by where the year has gone, I can only apologise for my endless Panto chat. However, by the end of the month they’ll be camped out at your local theatre and there’s no denying that pantomimes are a British staple come the winter season so do I think it’s worth talking about – oh yes it is!

The history of pantos is rich and fascinating. They were created here and date as far back as the 16th Century. In their early life a Harlequin was often the main character and a majority of the shows were silent with performances consisting of dancing and gestures only, much more like an art performance. It was the turn of the 1800s that brought fairy tales to life, gradually taking over from the silent Harlequin. The modern panto that combines fairy tales with comedy, songs and dancing, all while encouraging the audience to participate in the fun, has since remained as popular as ever, and shows no sign of stopping any time soon.That said, in a bid to keep with ever-changing times, there are those few that do challenge conventions by daring to be a little quirkier, ruder, or don’t follow a traditional fairy tale – some of which I covered last month.

However, enough of the past. Let’s focus on the here and now as Ipswich is given the thrill of not one traditional Panto but TWO! Kicking off proceedings is the New Wolsey’s beloved rock’n’roll panto with Cinderella. Their festive shows have become a cult favourite in town and are famed for an impressively long run, playing from 29th Nov to 2nd Feb but if you want to be there you’d better act now as tickets are selling fast. Meanwhile, the Regent is gearing up to tell the tale of Snow White (14th Dec – 2nd Jan) with their star-studded cast including Atomic Kitten’s Natasha Hamilton, Callabro’s Matt Pagen, X-Factor star Stevi Richie, BBC Radio Suffolk presenter Wayne Bavin, comedian Mike McClean and many more. It’s bound to bring some festive family fun!

A few other Suffolk gems include Seckford Theatre’s A Christmas Tale (4-7th Dec) – inspired by A Christmas Carol but starring Jack Frost, and the Spa Pavilion, Felixstowe are in a spin with Sleeping Beauty (21st Dec – 6th Jan).

Leading the way in Essex is Cinderella at the Chelmsford Civic Theatre (30th Nov-6th Dec) and Aladdin featuring the amazing Diversity at Southend’s Cliffs Pavilion (14th Dec – 5th Jan). For Cambridgeshire, the Arts Theatre is also flying high with Aladdin (29th Nov – 6th Jan), and is offering some great names such as Wayne Sleep, Suzie Mathers, Andy Abraham and Liza Goddard to name but a few. At Peterborough’s Key Theatre you can enjoy Peter Pan (6th Dec-6th Jan). Norfolk is en vogue with Aladdin at the Norwich Theatre Royal (12th Dec – 13th Jan) and features a mix of TV stars and local favourites whilst their sister theatre Norwich Playhouse takes a modern leap with Elf The Musical (12-22nd Dec).

With a plethora of shows to choose from across the county let’s hope you find one that will bring you and your family an evening of hearty laughs, entertainment and jollity.