The Grand Old Dame Of York Review

York Theatre Royal – until 2 February 2019

Reviewed by Marcus Richardson


The Grand Old Dame Of York, my my my, what a show. It has been 40 years of the same old self proclaimed rubbish and I would have to say the best 40 years a Dame can have. York Theatre Royal like pretty much all theatres have a pantomime over the Christmas period, however year in year out their panto stands out from the masses, being both chaotic and incredibly hilarious. Berwick Kaler has held the mantle of the Dame for 40 years, with this run being his last as Dame. A legendary performer backed by an equally talented cast. I am so glad that I have had the privilege to review the YTR panto for the past 3 years and got to experience a huge part of York’s Christmas tradition.

With Kaler playing the Dame, we already know the show is going to have constant laughs from start to finish. But this isn’t a one man show, nor is it a one man carrying the show, this is a cast that creates an amazing show with the stage being shared and given life from all members. One thing I love about watching the YTR panto is the returning faces, we get to see David Leonard play the villain one again, Suzi Cooper playing the lead female and Martin Barrass taking on the role of the son.  Every year I get just as confused and just as entertained, I’m amazed at how a show so crazy and so unpredictable can flow and work, I don’t think I’ll ever know but it’s something that YTR does.

This year we aren’t given a normal panto plot instead we have a very special sending off to Berwick as we watch as the villain tries to stop happiness from existing in Yorkshire, all the while Kaler is trying to write the play for this years pantomime. Don’t ask me to try and explain I don’t think anyone is capable of such a task. From the water chucking to A.J. Powell  dressing up in a female nurse outfit, there is never a dull moment in the play. The costumes as grand as ever and the stage sparkly and fun it’s spectacle for the eyes. That’s not to say the music was bad, we are given twist on songs such as baby shark, and a nod to the Little Shop of Horrors with the dentist song, yes the villain is also a dentist.

I don’t know how to end this review, as you should already be at the theatre watching this show, it’s a great send of to Berwick, and a part of York that the world enjoys to watch. I couldn’t stop laughing throughout the show and I’m sure you’ll be the same, I’m glad there isn’t another show like this because I doubt they could ever to it properly.

Peppa Pig’s Adventure Review

Theatre Royal Haymarket – until 6 January 2019

Reviewed by Alexandra Sykes


On a cold December morning the last thing most people want to do is sit in a theatre with a lot of children under 5 whilst watching a show aimed at a young audience. However, Peppa Pig does have a lot of funny moments for both children and adults.

Peppa Pigs Adventure is really good. If you’re 4. The members of the audience sat around me enjoyed joining in with looking for Peppa on the stage, singing the songs and laughing at the jokes. The characters of Peppa and George pig, Suzie sheep, Pedro pony and Gerald giraffe are large puppets on wheels operated by actors standing behind them and wheeling them around but in the eyes of a little child all they can see is Peppa and her friends.

The character of Daisy, the only human in the show, is played by Bronte Tadman. A special mention must be given to the fact that she managed to remain perky and very energetic throughout the whole show. Tadman interacted with the children throughout the show and was clearly the real star of the show, not Peppa.

The scenery is basic but the theatre is home to a musical on an evening so most of the backdrop is a rather large white sheet. The whole of the stage is used for the scenes and buildings such as the school look exactly like they do in the TV programme.

The highlight of the show had to be Santa on stage with Peppa Pig (and friends) singing Jingle Bells, which a lot of the children joined in with.

All in all Peppa Pig’s Adventure is good and makes a brilliant first theatre show for children.

Awful Auntie Review

Bloomsbury Theatre – until 6 January 2019

Reviewed by Alexandra Sykes


When you get told by an 8 year old that Awful Auntie is about a child trying to escape her Auntie with the help of a ghost and an owl you know you need a show just to understand the plot.

Set in and around Saxby Hall, Awful Auntie stars Georgina Leonidas as 12 year old orphan Stella Saxby who tries to escape her Auntie whilst trying to work out how her parents really died. Stella is helped by the ghost of Soot (Ashley Cousins) and Wagner the owl (Roberta Bellekom).

The awful auntie in question is Aunt Alberta played by Richard James, who is trying to find the deeds to Saxby Hall so she can sell it and turn it into an Owleum (and owl museum). However her star attraction would be Wagner stuffed and put on display which, rightly so, upsets Wagner meaning his allegiance switches from Alberta to Stella. Wagner is a very impressive puppet operated by Roberta Bellekom whose owl impressions sound like the real thing and the role is not used enough throughout the show.

The scenery is basic but impressive with 3 rotating towers that rotate to be Stella’s bedroom, the kitchen, the cellar, the garage and the study to name a few.

The highlight of the show for the entire audience was David Walliams appearing on stage at the end of the show thanking the cast and announcing that he was the new Prime Minister of the UK due the recent vote of no confidence.

Awful Auntie is fun for all the family as there are jokes for children and adults and a reference to The Shining which the adults in the audience found amusing.

Jack and the Beanstalk Review

Bridlington Spa – until Sunday 6th January 2019

Review by Zoe Lawton


Bridlington Spa have managed to pull out all the stops and put on a wonderful family friendly panto, and also attract some well-known names too Marina Sirtis from Star Trek: The Next Generation fame takes on the role of Empathic Fairy, and John Lyons from A Touch of Frost as King Grumble, Lloyd Warbey will be recognised by younger members of the audience from his time on Art Attack, Although Andre Vincent as Dame Trott, Aaron Steadman as Jack, Alexander Lee playing Fleshcreep, and Lucy Edge as Princess Amelia are perhaps not recognised names their performances were all equally amazing for their own individual parts for which they were playing and for bringing their characters to life not only through the script but through the songs and some strong vocal performances from all throughout.

The Collette Tyler school of dance have some very talented dancers who should feel very proud of their performances as they have obviously been practicing for some time to perfect all their routines. Jack and the Beanstalk follows the traditional story but as you would expect from a pantomime, we have a lot of fun, laughter, sing a longs and surprises as we follow Jack on his quest to win the Princess Amelia’s fair hand, look out for cast interaction!!!

The costume department had no doubt worked long hours putting every-one’s costumes together, orchestra, stage designers, make-up and hair, lighting and sound departments plus all the other back stage teams for which I’m sorry if I’ve left you out! should feel extremely proud to have put on such a funny, well written slap stick comical traditional panto.

If you are looking for a family friendly pantomime (with the odd line or two of adult humor) you will not be disappointed as Bridlington Spa have managed to achieve this once more for all the family to enjoy.

The Messiah Review

The Other Palace – until 5th January 2019

Reviewed by Claire Roderick


Patrick Barlow’s The Messiah is over 30 years old and is starting to feel a little creaky. There are moments of hilarity, but sadly they can’t make up for the hit and miss (mostly miss) material. Cut the show by at least half an hour and it could be wonderful, but in its current state it’s flat rather than festive.

Hugh Dennis plays Maurice Rose, founder of his own acting company, and John Marquez plays Ronald Bream, the other company member. Maurice is the old comedy staple of a pompous man with an inflated ego but very little skill or talent. His play and his attitude towards it are reminiscent of Ernie Wise and his “plays what I wrote”, and Barlow has slipped in lots of bad grammar just like Ernie’s. Rose is as bad an organiser as Captain Mainwaring, and acts like a petty tyrant when the audience doesn’t behave. Barlow has added a voyage of self-discovery for the character, who appears to have jumped into every self-help fad available rather than actually face his shortcomings. This is the main problem with the play – Rose’s po-faced conviction and Barlow’s determination to show that the play doesn’t mock the Nativity, or the men performing it, mean that there is a lot of cringe-worthy filler in between the jokes. If you can remember Frank Spencer’s Nativity efforts, then Raymond will seem very familiar – an accident-prone man-child with whimsical speech patterns.

The jokes are a mixed bunch. There’s a huge reliance on John Marquez’s physical comedy chutzpah, and the mis-pronunciations and spoonerisms wear a bit thin. But amongst the polite tittering are a few laugh out loud moments that spark the show back to life. The birth of Jesus, complete with midwife is a hoot, and the pantomime of the 3 kings trying to navigate their imaginary camels around the spinning stage is superbly silly.

Lesley Garret plays Mrs Fflyte, the guest soprano roped in to sing during the show. This, again, is hit and miss, with a fantastic dance and backing singing from the two men being a highlight, but most of the time, the actors and audience are watching her and waiting for her to finish. Which is a shame as her voice is still amazing.

There are moments that almost hit the heights of Eric and Ernie and Pete and Dud, but sadly not enough. The Messiah just doesn’t seem to know exactly what it’s aiming to be. Worth a look to see the stars hit a few moments of comedy gold.

A Christmas Carol Review

Arts Theatre – until 12th January 2019

Reviewed by Claire Roderick


Simon Callow was born for this. Watching his bravura performance in this one-man rendition of A Christmas Carol is as satisfying and cosy as a big warm hug. Perfect entertainment for a cold Winter’s night.

The joy and energy Callow brings to the stage retelling the classic tale is unmeasurable. His characterisations are simple but effective, he doesn’t do overmuch vocally to differentiate characters, switching seamlessly from Scrooge to Bob Cratchit with consummate ease. Whether he’s cutting a caper as Fezziwig or sitting painfully and pitifully as Tiny Tim, Callow embodies each character with passion.

The almost empty stage houses a screen for Callow to move around, and some simple but captivating pieces of scenery. At first, I thought there would be high-tech wizardry when the spirits appeared, but Adam Povey’s evocative lighting is all that changes. Instead director Tom Cairns relies on Callow’s storytelling and Charles Dickens’ glorious words to paint images in our imagination, creating an atmospheric and haunting play. It’s easy to forget how funny and playful Dickens’ language is in this story, but Callow revels in it, drawing the audience into Scrooge’s journey to redemption effortlessly.

Dickens’ tale of inequality and poverty in Victorian Britain, and the change Scrooge makes to save himself and those in need is painfully relevant today, as people with shopping bags bulging with unnecessary luxury gifts walk past the homeless on the streets. Hopefully, this wonderful show, as well as being heart-warming festive entertainment, could prompt us to think of making a few changes ourselves.

Finding Home Review

Canada Water Theatre, London – 13 December 2018

Reviewed by Antonia Hebbert


Early on in Cecilia Knapp’s one-person performance, she describes cycling along a towpath by a London canal. And there’s a sense of the steady rhythms of cycling throughout this show, as Knapp carries us back into childhood memories, through great trauma and up to finding ‘home’, a place of happiness and acceptance.

Knapp is a poet, playwright and performer, and this was a beautifully written piece. I found myself wanting to stop the show to have more time to think about the words and structure of the piece, before being swept on along the journey. (I’ve found out since that you can buy Finding Home from Cecilia Knapp’s website.) It’s a mesmerising performance, flawlessly delivered with the help of screens showing snatches of film, and minimal props to convey place and time. Descriptions of small details convey a lot about relationships as she describes childhood and the fun and excitement of growing up and moving to London. The trauma at the heart of the piece is the suicide of her brother when he was 21 and she was only 19. Knapp conveys the pain and the aftermath of this very convincingly in the same measured tones, without resorting to easy emotional effects. It feels very honest, but artfully constructed too.

An atmospheric soundtrack for the work is provided by beatboxer and double bass musician Bellatrix, with sound design by Chris Redmond. Stef O’Driscoll directs.

Cecilia Knapp is an ambassador for Calm (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) which works to prevent suicide, especially among young men. They have a helpline and webchat service every night: 0800 585858 and

Kinky Boots Review




Unfortunately, I can only give this show 5 stars when I think it is a very strong 12/5. Absolutely hooked from start to finish. The story of young men trying to discover who they are in the world is one any young adult can relate to. In this modern age of more gender fluidity this story is suitable for everybody and is all inclusive in the most phenomenal way.

Forced to take over the family business Charlie (Joel Harper-Jackson) find his inspiration in the most unlikely of friendships with Lola/Simon (Callum Francis), to save the factory & the lively hood of the close nit family of workers. The chemistry between Joel and Callum is palpable, making their camaraderie on stage seem effortless. The slight corpsing during one scene shows that they are thoroughly enjoying the experience which clearly spilled over into the audience.

Cyndi Lauper’s score took you on a roller coaster of emotions. From everyone belly laughing at The History of Wrong Guys performed perfectly by Lauren (Paula Lane), to the breathtaking Hold me in Your Heart by Lola which had audience members living every word and on their feet applauding.

There was a pause in the production where we are advised to stay in our seats and the lighting came up. The audience don’t know why this happened but as it was just before the finale it added to the anticipation. People were looking around thinking maybe the crew were going to strut their stuff down the aisles. They did not, but it did not take away from the incredible final scene with everyone dancing in sky high heels that I wouldn’t even be able to stand in never mind pull half the moves they were. They brought the roof down and finished to a more than deserved repetitious standing ovation.

If you do not have your tickets yet – what are you waiting for? I’m off to buy the DVD to keep me ticking over until I can see it again in Glasgow next year.

Peter Pan Review

Richmond Theatre – until Sunday 6 January 2019

Reviewed by Sabrina Fancy


In the run up to Christmas, there is an exciting array of family friendly pantos with big named stars playing the lead.

Peter Pan is no exception with multi award winning actor of stage and screen Robert Lindsay making his pantomime debut in the role of Captain Hook! As a BAFTA and Olivier award one can see from his performance how he collected these accolades.

The panto genre seems to suit Lindsay for audiences young and old. He plays the villain effortlessly, eliciting boos from the crowd whenever he came on stage and captivated audiences.

Other cast members include Jon Clegg from Britain’s got Talent playing the role of Captain Hook’s sidekick Smee, whose rendition of Baby Shark was very well received. Rachel Stanley (Les Misérables) plays Mimi the Mermaid. Harry Francis (The Book of Mormon) plays the role of Pan, much of which is flying thru the air! With his pleasant voice, I would have enjoyed more of his vocals.

Keisha Marina Attwell who plays Tiger Lilly is frustratingly under- utilised. Her powerful voice was showcased in her rendition of the song No Place I’d rather Be and her dance moves were also riveting- she really struts her stuff and makes the most of the small part she plays and I was sorry to not see more of her.

The costumes and set design and intricate and impressive, with a giant crocodile that leads to the demise of Captain Hook. I also liked how the script incorporated modern cultural references into JM Barrie’s classic tale, as there were several references to the Brexit shambles and Theresa May which was culturally relevant and amusing.

Unfortunately, the rest of show cannot compare to the captivating Lindsay. While the children in the audience were entertained, there seemed to be a lack of humour, songs and cheekiness that one would hope for in a panto to appeal to an adult audience. However it’s worth seeing this for Robert Lindsay alone who stole the show-he really has me hooked!

The Richmond theatre itself is beautiful and was named one of the Top 10 best theatres to visit in your Life time. It is located 5 minutes from the station with plenty of restaurants and bars in the area.


We held the inaugural AURORA AWARD FOR RISING STARS this year

Marlow and Moss

Our reviewers nominated and voted and our first ever winners are Marlow and Moss for Six the Musical and Bobby Hirston for The Play That Goes Wrong on tour.


Bobby Hirston