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Pantomimes and Christmas shows in Devon: 12 great performances to see

PUBLISHED: 10:52 04 December 2018 | UPDATED: 10:52 04 December 2018

La Navet Bete tell the story of Aladdin in their own particular way. PICTURE: MATT AUSTIN

La Navet Bete tell the story of Aladdin in their own particular way. PICTURE: MATT AUSTIN

Matt Austin

We're now into pantomime season where the sounds of hundreds of theatre-goers shouting 'he's behind you!' will be heard at locations all around the county. Here are 12 great pantomimes and Christmas shows for you to try

1) Dick Whittington at Theatre Royal, Plymouth – December 14 – January 12

One of the highlights of Christmas for many grown ups is the chance to rekindle happy childhood memories of pantomime and to pass on that excitement to their children and grandchildren. TV star John Partridge clearly remembers the first pantomime he saw – it was Dick Whittington at Radcliffe United Reformed Church in Manchester and his sister, always the principal boy, played Dick. It was here that John played his first starring role as the lead in Humpty Dumpty with his sister playing Humpty’s mother.

Dick Whittington also stars John’s EastEnders co-star Samantha Womack as Fairy Bow Bells and Devon-born Andy Ford as Idle Jack. Tickets start at £13.

2) Peter Pan at Queens’s Theatre Barnstaple – December 14 – January 5

Another EastEnders alumni is John Altman, who played infamous villain “Nasty” Nick Cotton, making him the perfect choice for the ultimate panto baddie – Captain Hook in Peter Pan which is at Barnstaple’s Queen’s Theatre this year. He has appeared as a pantomime villain for over 30 years as well as appearing in plays and musicals including a stint as Billy Flynn in Chicago.

Parkwood Theatres are hoping to build on the success of last year’s Beauty and the Beast with the magic of Peter Pan, Tinkerbell, Wendy, Michael and the Lost Boys of Neverland. Daniel Slade plays Peter Pan and Sophie Adams is Wendy.

3) Jack and the Beanstalk at Exeter Northcott Theatre – December 3 – January 6

The pantomime icon Steve Bennett will play Dame Dotty Trott in Jack and the Beanstalk which he again writes and, for the first time, will direct. Supported by a strong cast of largely Devon-based performers, this promises to be a giant of a show.

Tickets start at £11 and will vary around the different performance times.

4) Sleeping Beauty at Princess Theatre, Torquay – December 14 – January 19

This year’s pantomime at the Princess Theatre in Torquay is Sleeping Beauty when an evil fairy condemns the beautiful princess to sleep forever, unless she can be woken by her true love’s kiss!

Television presenter Melinda Messenger appears as Fairy Sparkle, The X Factor finalist Luke Friend, who grew up in Teignmouth, returns as Prince Valentine having played the Genie in last year’s Aladdin, Aiden J Harvey is King Eggbert The Oval and Phil Randall is Queen Gertie the Gorgeous.

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Christmas in Devon...

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5) Aladdin at the Barbican Theatre, Plymouth – December 13 – January 6

It may sound like a traditional panto, it may even look like a traditional panto, but La Navet Bete’s adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the mix with their version of Aladdin. This Exeter-based company sounds exotic but in reality La Navet Bete translates from the French as “daft turnip”. That tells you all you need to know about their physical comedy, madcap antics and unique twist to such theatrical classics as Dracula, The Jungle Book, The Three Musketeers and last year’s festive show, A Christmas Carol.

Aladdin will be the company’s eighth Christmas show in Plymouth and is co-produced with the Barbican Theatre and performed in the lovely Plymouth Athenaeum.

6) Mother Goose at Palace Theatre, Paignton – December 20 – January 2

Paignton’s Palace Theatre, now run by a community interest company, is pulling out all the stops with their pantomime Mother Goose. Paignton Pantomime Productions, who won the National Operatic and Dramatic Association’s Best Pantomime award last year for Cinderella, have all the familiar panto ingredients – a hilarious script, a live five-piece band, fabulous costumes, great dance routines and a top rate cast.

Mother Goose must choose if it’s better to be rich or nice and the fate of Pricilla, the Goose Princess, rests on her decision.

7) The Elves and the Shoemaker at various locations

Popular Devon-based Theatre Company Above Bounds will be delighting audiences this Christmas with The Elves and The Shoemaker, their theatrical retelling of the Brothers Grimm’s classic story with original music, mischievous puppets and lots of laughs. The set is designed by Chloe Benbow with musical score by Grace Hancock and vocal performances from members of the Plough Arts Centre Youth Theatre.

It is aimed at children between three and seven years of age and their families. The Elves and The Shoemaker is at The Plough Arts Centre, Great Torrington (theploughartscentre.org.uk) on 11 and 12 December, Tavistock Library on 21 December and Ocean Studios, Plymouth on 22 December.

8) Hansel and Gretel at Exeter Northcott Theatre – December 22 – 30

Lovely Paddleboat Theatre from Exeter has created a lovely relaxed version of Hansel and Gretel aimed at offering an interactive Christmas treat for young families. With an enchanted forest set, playful characters and poetic storytelling, PaddleBoat will transform Exeter Northcott’s stage into a wondrous woodland to capture the imaginations of young and old alike. Hansel and Gretel offers a relaxed inclusive environment to experience theatre as a family, perhaps for the very first time.

Join in a playful story full of live music, gentle interaction and imagination - a feast for all the senses.

Join Hansel and Gretel as they venture into the woods, trailing breadcrumbs as they go. The mischievous siblings are on the hunt for sweet treats in the heart of the forest – but might find more than they bargained for…

9) Stardust at Soapbox Children’s Theatre in Plymouth – December 8 - 24

Stiltskin Theatre Company weave their magic in their own original style using inventive set, puppets and costumes in a heart-warming tale for all the family at their multi-award winning Soapbox Children’s Theatre in Plymouth’s Devonport Park. Pip loves to climb the ice crusted rooftops with Sam her cat. One day she climbs higher than ever and catches stardust from a shooting star.

Can the stardust help her in her time of need? There are performances suitable for under fives (without baddie) and older children (with baddie!).

10) Christmas Crackers at Babbacombe Theatre

There’s traditional family entertainment in the run-up to the festive season with Christmas Crackers at the Babbacombe Theatre, Torquay. Expect singing, dancing, comedy, magic and plenty of sparkle in the show which is headlined by comedian Andy Oakley. He is joined on stage by comedy magician Peter Baffles, singers Paul Cobley and Sami-Jane, dancers Danze Magique and special guest 16-year-old Lily Laight.

She was in the original cast of Matilda on London’s West End and has appeared on TV in Doc Martin. Lily has been performing at Babbacombe Theatre since she was eight and this show will mark her 15th production here. Christmas Crackers is on every Wednesday at 2.30pm and 8.15pm until 12 December. Then there are matinees on 19, 26, 28 and 31 December.

11) An Evening With Krampus at Barbican Theatre, Plymouth – December 11 – 22

Enjoy ‘a darkly delicious festive treat’ at Plymouth’s Barbican that is tailored towards adults this festive period. The show has been developed with artists all from the Plymouth area who have been inspired by Krampus, a figure from European folklore who punishes children who have misbehaved.

Tickets are £14.

12) The Gingerbread Man at Theatre Royal Plymouth – December 4 – January 19

Combining puppetry, live action, great music and humour, this fantastic production from Stuff and Nonsense tells the story of The Gingerbread Man’s troubles after he first comes out of the oven.

The show is suitable for young children as there are no scary bits.

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