Well, going to a pantomime with my 86-year-old mother seemed the natural thing to do, to support the wonderful Brindley Theatre, embrace the festive spirit and have some fun. I can’t remember the last time I’d been to a pantomime and on entering the auditorium filled with a mixture of children waving their glowing wands and adults with glowing smiles.

I was looking forward to some Christmas cheer was keen to watch Michael Starke, or ‘Sinbad’ as we all knew him, as I was an avid Brookside (Brookie!) fan and felt like I knew him already. The rest of the cast I didn’t know but was soon accustomed myself to equally talented actors.   As we sat in anticipation for the mayhem of panto to start, I looked around the theatre and saw children, dressed in glittering dresses, mums and dads in Christmas Jumpers and one little girl in a full Snow-White costume. The audience were certainly in the mood for this Christmas tradition.

The show opened with authentic sights and sounds, snow falling, dramatic music and the silver disco ball spinning above our heads. A great start!   We were immediately introduced to the fairy story by Fairy Sparkle (Charlie Griffiths) and the 7 dwarfs (a mixture of adults and children with some unfortunately lame beards) and were transported to the fairy tale village of Merrymead. Talented dancers welcomed us to the effervescent ‘Muddles’ (Andrew Curphey) who, throughout the performance owned the stage and had every member of the audience in the palm of his hand; the hilarious Sarah the cook (Muddle’s mum – AKA the dame) played magnificently by the talented Matt Dallen who was very reminiscent of the comedian Brian Connelly; the Huntsman played by my ‘ Brookie boy’- Michael Starke, who throughout gave us cheesy ‘one-liners’, cheeky grins, sarcasm and tongue-in-cheek audience interaction; the beautiful and talented Snow White (Rebecca Lake); the handsome Prince Valentine (incredible voice of Christopher Pym) and the evil Queen Maleova, played authentically by Lynne Francis who had us all booing and hissing at her and her evil ways from the onset. The opening Scandinavian set was magical, as was each forthcoming set that of the woods, the palace, the royal kitchen, the dungeon, the dwarfs cottage and the magical mirror and credit deservedly goes to the ‘New Pantomime Productions Ltd’, for their creativity in all of the stage props and costumes and consequently the ambience they effectively created.

The following scene of Muddles, the Huntsman and Sarah the cook in the kitchen was a masterpiece of hilarious capers from start to finish and had me and my mum and most of the audience, I may add, in tears of laughter. I’m not going to spoil this by telling you the scene, but it was brilliant, look out for Muddles kneading the dough, genius! As the tale moved from the Palace to the haunted wood, a hypnotised huntsman and great references to local towns the first act finished with us all begging for more.

The second act built up on the humour, antics and the superb dame outfits (the toilet cleaner one was hysterical). We had a sublime ’12 Days of Christmas’ played superbly by the cast of Fairy Sparkle, the Huntsman, Sarah the Cook and of course the magnificent Muddles that, with the ‘5 toilet rolls’ sequence and the ‘accident’ (not spoiling that! ) had the audience in roars of side-splitting laughter as did the ‘it’s behind you’ ghost scene- terrific sketches!!

Michael Starke got 2 young girls on stage for some audience participation, with us all joining in, the very un-Christmassy ‘it’s raining Tacos’ and each Panto ‘must do’ was ticked off fabulously. The end scene of the wedding in the fairy-tale castle made us all feel like children at Christmas and it was really magical.

Me and my mum were so glad we attended this show and you will be to. Go and have a laugh, take your children and parents alike, join in this magic whilst you can! https://tickets.thebrindley.org.uk/default.aspx

Reviewer: Jan Mellor

Reviewed: 14th December 2019

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★