Dick Whittington, Royal Spa Centre, Leamington, to Dec 30.
I’m going to let you in on a secret - I don’t like panto. Or at least I thought I didn’t. Before this production I last saw a pantomime over 25 years ago as a surly 16-year-old when my grandad made me go to one in Southport.
All I can remember about it was that it was tedious and went on forever. Oh - and that after my grandad got me through the theatre doors he sneaked off home because he didn’t want to see it either.
Not surprisingly, when I announced to my kids that we were going to a panto, their response was: "What's a panto?"
They were not convinced by my attempts at explanation: "You have to shout a lot. At some point you shout 'it’s behind you!' And there’s always a man dressed up as a woman. Oh - you can eat sweets during the show."
So I was nervously watching their faces, once the Haribo had disappeared. Fortunately they were soon smiling and laughing - and after that, I was absorbed in the show. There’s a bit of a seaside twist to it, and as it went on the plot seemed less and less relevant, and more and more madcap.
There are no prizes for guessing that the dame stole the show. JP McCue tottered around the stage in impossibly high stilettos laughing away with a strong Scottish accent. He missed the odd line or two (this was the first performance, so all is forgiven) but that simply made it funnier.
Special mention has to be made of Tommy the cat, whose acrobatics were excellent, and the dancing sailors and rats.
This is classic panto with lots of shouting and - of course - an excellent "It’s behind you!" scene, but there was so much more. The audience participation was brilliant - well done audience member Neil; some of the jokes are terrible, although getting Nuneaton into a quip is an accomplishment, and there are liberal doses of singing and slapstick humour.
Panto is better with children, and here are the verdicts of seven-year-old Alex and 10-year-old Charlie (pictured right). Alex said: "It was excellent, my favourite bit was when she forgot her lines."
And Charlie added: "I liked the way they used pre-written songs (think Abba and Greatest Showman) in a different way."
On the way out Alex asked if we would go again next year. I looked at his happy face and found myself saying, "yes, I guess so".
Did I enjoy it? I thought it would be a case of "Oh no I didn’t!" But it’s a definite case of "Oh yes I did!" Panto-phobia cured.
For tickets call the box office on 01926 334418.