Christmas time traditionally means it’s Panto Season…. but what to do when you are faced with a global pandemic with restrictions on how many people can work closely together and the proximity of audiences?
Well when you are one of the country’s most imaginative theatres, like Ipswich’s New Wolsey, you think differently and adapt!
This year there are two ways of seeing the Rock n Roll Panto, at the theatre with restricted sized audiences or by watching the online stream at home.
The production this year is The Snow Queen, set in the peaceful little town of Ballbroken where Gerda is about to be crowned the Queen of May, meanwhile young Simon the blacksmith’s apprentice is hoping to graduate and get his own hammer. Dame Sigrid Smorgasbord is preparing the May Day feast and also dispensing mayhem.
Love is also in the air between blacksmith’s daughter Gerda and Kay, but nothing is straightforward in panto land and there’s a wicked queen along with a sidekick determined to ruin things and test the patience of Primrose (the good fairy) who is determined to see that all turns out fine.
As always with the New Wolsey Rock n Roll Pantos, that Peter Rowe has become famous for directing, there’s a great script with some up to the minute gags and loads of great music performed by the actor-singer-musicians who this year number only five.
That’s where things stop being normal…. due to the current crisis there are restrictions facing all the theatres across the land. This means audiences have to be distanced, wear facemasks etc. The New Wolsey have taken this all onboard and if you attend a live performance there is nothing to fear, everything is so well organised. You are met at the door where your temperature is taken, then you will be checked in and directed around the theatre’s one-way system and to your seat. Empty seats and screens ensure your safety and social distancing within the theatre. You will however be asked to keep your mask on at all times.
So back to the performance itself, the actors have to work doubly hard this year due to being a smaller cast. Everyone is brilliant, all are past performers from previous pantos at the New Wolsey: Gerda is played by Lucy Wells, what an amazing voice this young lady has, the same can be said for Natasha Lewis who has two parts, the Snow Queen and Primrose. James Haggie makes a welcome return as the villanious Icicle as well as Simon. Adam Langstaff doubles up as Kay Smorgasbord and and also Sven Lumphammer, finally we must not forget Steve Simmonds once more donning a frock, this year as the man hungry Dame Sigrid Smorgasbord, full of very corny and sometimes near the knuckle gags (parents rest easy they will go over the heads of young ones).
There are lots of new and very imaginative additions this year including some film segments including a great rendition of The Proclaimers I’m Gonna Be (500 miles) with accompanying video reminiscent of Peter Kay’s “Show Me The Way to Amarillo”.
The viewers watching at home aren’t forgotten and there’s audience participation for them too including a surprise visit to someone’s home al a Ant and Dec.
So if you choose to watch at home or in the theatre itself, you should definitely support this terrific production. With the bad year that theatre’s have had this year, now more than ever, they need our support.
It’s a shorter run than normal this year with performances running from 17th – 24th December, so make sure you book your ticket now: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.wolseytheatre.co.uk or call 01473 295900.
Review: Mark Keable, Ipswich24