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Pantomimes and Christmas shows in Devon: 16 great performances to see

PUBLISHED: 15:59 05 December 2019 | UPDATED: 15:59 05 December 2019

The classic tale Treasure Island gets a comedy twist from Le Navet Bete. PICTURE: MATT AUSTIN

The classic tale Treasure Island gets a comedy twist from Le Navet Bete. 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 16 great pantomimes and Christmas shows for you to try

1) Cinderella at Theatre Royal Plymouth - December 20 - January 18

You shall go to the ball! This year's pantomime at the Theatre Royal Plymouth is the family favourite Cinderella starring comedy legend, musical theatre, television and Strictly Come Dancing star Brian Conley, who plays Cinderella's best friend Buttons. This perfect panto will have great music, laugh-out-loud comedy and, of course, the Ugly Sisters, a magical Fairy Godmother and the dashing Prince Charming.

Brian is delighted to be back in Plymouth where he has starred in several pantos as well as shows such as Hairspray, Barnum, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Jolson. "I've played more productions at Plymouth than anyone else and I just love it there," he says.

2) Beauty and the Beast at Exeter Northcott - November 30 - January 5

The glorious love story, Beauty and the Beast, is being staged at the Northcott Theatre, Exeter, for the first time with artistic director Daniel Buckroyd writing the script and directing the show.

The original story was published in 1740 by French writer Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve and has been adapted over the years, including the hugely popular Disney animated musical version. When Belle, the most beautiful girl in Paris, bumps into Prince Valentin, love is in the air… until the Evil Enchantress puts a spell on him that turns him into the Beast.

3) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at Exeter Corn Exchange - December 7 - January 1

It's the tenth anniversary of pantomimes at Exeter Corn Exchange and to celebrate, all ten-year-olds can go for £10! This year's choice is Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and you can expect pantomime perfection with great music, messy slapstick and silly singalongs.

Playing Snow White is Ella Gilling from BBC TV's The Next Step and the cast includes Exeter's favourite double act Daniel Page and Matt Finegan who were in last year's popular Corn Exchange show, Aladdin.

4) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at Queen's Theatre, Barnstaple - December 13 - January 5

The panto at the Queen's Theatre, Barnstaple, is also Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The show will have plenty of sparkle with a cast lead by Buck's Fizz singer Jay Aston as Wicked Queen Vanity.

With lavish scenery, costumes, dazzling special effects, live music, spectacular dance routines, and a hilarious script, this family show has something for everyone.

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Christmas in Devon...

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5) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at Princess Theatre, Torquay - December 13 - January 5

And to make it a Snow White hat-trick, that's the pantomime choice for audiences at the Princess Theatre, Torquay, this year. There are fabulous costumes, sensational song and dance numbers for all to enjoy and plenty of comedy for people of all ages. Join Snow White, Prince Valentine, Huntsman Goodheart and the Seven Dwarfs in a retelling of the famous fairy-tale.

The Wicked Queen is trying to poison Snow White and become the fairest of them all. It's up to our heroes to save Snow White and foil the Wicked Queen's evil plans. Back by popular demand is Hollyoaks actor Marcus Patrick who reprises the role of Huntsman Goodheart alongside star of The X Factor and Devon's very own Luke Friend as Prince Valentine.

6) Treasure Island at Athenaeum Theatre, Plymouth - December 12 - January 5

There's swashbuckling family fun with Treasure Island as you have never seen it before. Le Navet Bete give their own twist to the Robert Louis Stevenson classic in their ninth Christmas show following recent successes The Three Musketeers, Aladdin and Dracula: The Bloody Truth.

It's Christmas Eve in the Admiral Benbow Inn (actually a real pub on Plymouth's Barbican). Jim Hawkins is serving ale to the one and only customer the pub ever has. Suddenly the door slams open and in strides Billy Bones, the infamous pirate, to change Jim's life forever…

7) A Grimm Christmas at Barbican Theatre, Plymouth - December 12 - 23

A Grimm Christmas is an adults only affair which promises to be "a spin on the fairy tales you thought you knew…. before Hollywood sprinkled sugar on them".

The Brothers Grimm wrote dark and gruesome tales that were later sanitised and sweetened for children. But this Christmas the brothers want to reclaim their stories from the corporate giants that roam the land, and take back their place in the traditions of folklore. Join them as they tell the stories how they were originally intended; uncensored with all the menace and gore to thrill and delight on a Grimm Christmas night.

8) The Velveteen Rabbit at Plough Arts Centre and Exeter Phoenix

Quirk Theatre bring the charming children's story The Velveteen Rabbit to Devon this month for children, their families and anyone who's ever been a child. The toy rabbit in the play is competing with iPads, LOL dolls and mobile phones, but manages to reach beyond the technology and touch her owner's heart. Quirk have set the original story in the present day to examine the transition from child to older child to young adult and ask what toys mean to us.

In the production, the step-dad works from home and is very involved in his new role in the family. The mum is career-focused and the main earner, while the daughter is at a point of change in her life, about to go to big school. She sees a world ahead of her where she could be an engineer, a fashion designer, a famous chef, or a climate activist. The Velveteen Rabbit is at the Plough Arts Centre, Torrington on 7 December and Exeter Phoenix 15-28 December.

9) The Elves and the Shoemaker at Theatre Royal Plymouth - December 3 - January 18

Sam Lacey makes shoes that are out of this world. His imagination is huge but his shoe-making business is a disaster. Why would anyone buy a pair of Banana Skin slippers or spend money on shoes for a spider? Even his neighbour Belinda can't get him to see sense. Then, one night, two tiny green visitors climb into his kitchen and start stitching and cutting and snipping and gluing… Sam Lacey is about to get the surprise of a lifetime.

This hilarious re-telling of the much-loved classic tale by the Brothers Grimm from the inescapably inventive Stuff and Nonsense is a total delight for all the family, full of wit, charm and surprising puppetry.

10) Hansel and Gretel at Barnfield Theatre, Exeter - December 21 - January 5

The stories of the Brothers Grimm seem to be a popular choice this year. Exeter-based Paddleboat Theatre will be performing Hansel and Gretel, promising a Christmas treat with a relaxed, inclusive theatre experience.

Join Hansel and Gretel as they venture into the woods, trailing breadcrumbs and sharing their story as they go. The mischievous siblings are searching for the magical Christmas Market at the heart of the forest, but if they're not careful they'll find more than just sweets waiting for them in the wintry woods.

11) Wonderful Christmastime at Babbacombe Theatre, Torquay - December 4, 11, 18, 26, 28 and January 1

There's a traditional appeal to the Christmas show at the Babbacombe Theatre, Torquay, with the all new family show, Wonderful Christmastime.

There's comedy from Andy Oakley and ITV's comedy impressionist Phil Lowen and music from Britain's Got Talent vocalist Sami-Jane, West End star Lily Laight and international singing sensation, Damien James. Music includes songs from Cats, Anything Goes, Aladdin, A Star is Born and Sister Act, as well as pop classics and seasonal favourites originally performed by Ed Sheeran, Mariah Carey, Paul McCartney, The Waitresses, Tom Jones and Neil Diamond. There are also slick dance routines from Danze Fantastique.

12) Sleeping Beauty at Palace Theatre, Paignton - December 21 - January 5

Paignton Pantomime Productions were regional winners in the NODA Best Pantomime awards three times in the last five years, so expect great things of this year's show, Sleeping Beauty, at the Palace Theatre - colourful costumes, plenty of comedy, award-nominated choreography, audience participation and a mixture of songs both old and new with the backing of a five piece professional band.

Princess Rose is under a curse from the wicked witch that she will die if she pricks her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel before her 16th birthday. Instead, she falls into a deep sleep and can only be woken by a handsome prince.

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13) Carols in the Cathedral at Exeter Cathedral - December 17 - 18

Exeter Philharmonic Choir is "delighted" to welcome the talented Winchester College Quiristers and one of Britain's most versatile musical ensembles, Chaconne Brass, to perform at this year's Carols in the Cathedral concerts. The Choir's annual rendition of some of our best-loved carols, against the stunning backdrop of Exeter Cathedral, are popular events. Winchester College's Quiristers and Chaconne Brass will bring an extra sprinkle of festive magic to this year's performance.

The tradition of Quiristers at Winchester College goes back some 600 years when college founder William of Wykeham made provision for 16 young boys under the age of 12 to sing in the Chapel. The school has maintained this choral foundation ever since and the Quiristers, or Qs as they are usually known, form a vital part of the school's Chapel Choir.

14) Exmoor Carolers Concerts - Dates below

The Exmoor Carolers have been presenting the traditional carols performed and adopted by the folk of Exmoor since 2006, raising funds for the different churches and charities.

December concerts this year include All Saints Church, Eggesford (3pm, 1 December), St Sabinus Church, Woolacombe (7pm, 7 December), St James Church, Arlington (3pm, 8 December), St Mary Magdalene Church, Exford (7pm, 14 December), St John the Baptist Church, Bishops Tawton (3pm, 15 December), Christ Church, Parracombe (7pm, 21 December) and The Plough Arts Centre, Torrington (3pm, 22 December).

15) Steeleye Span at Exeter Corn Exchange - December 9

Christmas music has a special place in our hearts, but it's not all carol music. Steeleye Span's a cappella version of Latin Christmas verse Gaudete hit the pop charts in 1973 securing the band's place in folk history. With the legendary Maddy Prior on lead vocals they had four Top 40 albums and a massive hit with All Around My Hat.

This year Steeleye Span are marking 50 years of performing with a new album EST'D 1969 and a tour which brings them to Devon this month. Still led by iconic Maddy Prior, the seven-piece line-up will draw on the group's incredible history to provide a night of favourites and surprises from down the decades.

16) Slade at Exeter Lemon Grove - December 21

It's not Christmas without everyone's favourite hit - Slade's Merry Christmas Everybody. With the song much in demand, Slade always tour at this time every year. The Rocking Home for Christmas tour includes their Yuletide hit plus some of their other smashes including Cum On Feel the Noize, Coz I Luv You, Mama We're All Crazee Now and Gudbye T' Jane.

The glam rockers had 23 Top 20 including six Number Ones in a career spanning more than half a century. After phenomenal success in the 70s and early 80s, the band returned to touring in 1991 with founder Slade members lead guitarist Dave Hill and drummer Don Powell.

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