Which are the best pantos across Sussex and Hampshire this year?
Maybe the best, the classiest, the most impressive Christmas show this Christmas isn't a pantomime at all, but The Wind In The Willows from the always magnificent Chichester Festival Youth Theatre. The talents of the young performers are astonishing, backed up by full professional support which allows them absolutely to soar on that hallowed Chichester stage.
Of the straight pantos, of those that I have seen, I would say it is a tie for first place between Sleeping Beauty at New Theatre Royal Portsmouth and Beauty and the Beast at the Regis Centre in Bognor. Maybe the Portsmouth one is the big surprise. Usually it is the Kings in Southsea that claims the panto crown in the great city of Portsmouth, but not this year. The New Theatre Royal has had a difficult start to its bid to establish itself as a panto venue, coinciding with Covid and all the lockdowns. But this year they are absolutely in their stride with a delightful show.
But equally delightful is Bognor, a venue which is always so warm and friendly – and the pantomime simply seems an extension of the venue itself. A strong story very well told, an energetic and engaging cast, you couldn't possibly ask for more.
Perhaps a slight surprise this year is the Mayflower in Southampton. While being absolutely spectacular and delivered with the highest possible production values, it’s odd that it isn’t more impressive. The problem is that it leaves the notion of panto a little bit too far behind, hasn't got a great story holding it all together and offers, to an extent, style over substance.
You can catch all our reviews below. My colleagues saw the shows in Worthing, Horsham, Crawley and Eastbourne.
The Wind In The Willows, Chichester Festival Youth Theatre, Chichester Festival Theatre, December 17-31.
Sleeping Beauty, New Theatre Royal Portsmouth, until December 31.
Beauty and the Beast, Regis Centre, Bognor, until Sunday, January 1.
Cinderella, Kings Theatre, Southsea, until Saturday, December 31
Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, until December 31.
Cinderella, The Capitol Theatre, Horsham, until December 31 – review
Jack and the Beanstalk, Worthing Pavilion until January 2.
The All New Adventures of Peter Pan: Hawth
Aladdin at Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park Theatre.
Beauty and the Beast, White Rock Theatre, Hastings from December 15-31