Horsham panto review: ‘great British tradition’

SOME people say pantomime is outdated. Well, I prefer to subscribe to the view that it is actually a great British tradition and something everyone should experience as a rite of passage.

The last panto I saw was Cinderella in the late 1980s, starring Stu ‘ohhh, I could Crush a Grape’ Francis and one of the Nolan sisters – and that WAS positively outdated compared to the entertaining romp currently being served up by Jack and the Beanstalk at the Capitol.

Thigh slapping chiches aside, this is how panto should be - interaction with the children, jokes, slapstick and something to hold dad’s attention.

The production was pretty decent too, with so many dance routines it felt like you were watching a West End musical rather than a pantomime in Horsham.

The cast may be led by CBeebies star Sarah-Jayne Honeywell, as fairy Twinkle, but the real stars are Connor Byrne, and Michael Neilson.

Tracey Beaker star Byrne plays the Giant’s henchman Fleshcreep with just the right amount of evil and comedy, and when he feels the booing from the audience needs beefing up, he cranks up the sinister side of his role.

It worked – he was still being booed at the end!

Neilson meanwhile, pulls of playing Dame Trot, the hero Jack’s mother, with aplomb.

It must be so easy when playing a Dame to fall into Christopher Biggens-esque clichés, but Neilson brings more than a touch of Eric Morecambe’s style to the performance – his scene with Silly Billy in the dairy is slapstick at its best.

You can almost forgive his appearance in a Go Compare commercial.

With a highly entertaining interlude, as we wait for the magic beans to grow into the beanstalk which leads to the Castle in the Clouds, this is a thoroughly modern panto, with some traditional nods.

For example, Daisy the cow is obviously two men in a cow suit, and where else in the world will you see a middle aged man dressed as a dame in a fairy tale, performing a dance routine to ‘You’re the One That I Want’ from Grease?

And that’s what makes this such a great British Christmas tradition, you forget just how much fun pantomime can be.

It makes you a little sad for other countries, that they don’t get to experience it.

Jack and the Beanstalk is on at The Capitol, Horsham, until Monday January 2, tickets available from the box office on 01403 750220.

Allan Norbury