“He’s behind you..!”

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With 2021 behind us “(Oh no it isn’t!”)… it’s Panto time! πŸ˜‰

Janet and Jo picked us up and after a late breakfast at The Old Forge, and we headed for Milton Keynes Theatre.

Β© Image: Milton Keynes Theatre Group

We haven’t been to a Pantomime, we think, for about 15 years. Back then, the cast would likely to have been made up of soap-stars and comedians. Fast-forward quite a few performances – and years – and things feel a bit different.

Almost there!

For this production, we have Ashley Banjo (the well-known English street dancer, choreographer and actor as well as being the leader of dance troupe Diversity). We were reminded that they won the third series of Britain’s Got Talent way back in 2009.

Great seats!

Who else..?

Alongside them is Pete Firman – English magician, comedian and television presenter together with Gina Murray, actress, who appeared in Sorted (2000), Ankh 3: Battle of the Gods (2008) and BBC3’s (very under-rated) comedy Witless (2016). For those of us of a certain age, she’s also has a famous Dad: songwriter, record producer and author, Mitch Murray.

We’re ready!

We arrived in good time! There was a small queue outside as part of the Covid Passport checking, but we were soon inside. A quick drink was in order before taking our seats. It filled up pretty quickly and by curtain-up it was pretty much a sell-out.

Any good..?

In a word: Absolutely! πŸ‘

In a sentence: The perfect tonic for a cold, damp January afternoon! 😁

In a paragraph: Covid had taken its toll on the cast. Gina Murray was MiA, but her understudy gave a brilliant performance as Mother Nature – a great singing voice too! Ashley Banjo made a good fist of the character Jack, but he looked somewhat nervous in the first few scenes and a bit out-of-place amongst the thesps. Ashley Banjo’s group Diversity almost didn’t live up to its name, having been reduced to just three in total this afternoon – with the remaining performers down with the dreaded virus (we estimated around 10 missing). Pete Firman, as Simon, was the glue that held it all together and did a great job of keeping the audience involved. His magic tricks were more Tommy Cooper than Penn & Teller, but it suited the narrative perfectly. Dame Trot, played by Jack Land Noble came across as a seasoned professional in the world of pantomimes, and played his part with energy, commanding a real presence on stage. Elsewhere, for me, the most memorable scene featured Tilly, Simon and Jill, where Simon mimed to snippets of popular songs as part of their dialogue – ruthlessly well-rehearsed and delivered ‘straight’ and with confidence. In a later scene (featuring most of the main characters) I’ll can now never look at a wooden spoon and a saucepan in the same way again! Ouch! – the audience, as a result, like me, were in raptures! Given the logistical challenges, it was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon with friends! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Today had all the hallmarks of a typical panto: Plenty of laughs, corny jokes, a smattering of double-entendres for the Mums and Dads, plenty of “…behind you…” and “oh no, he isn’t…” moments, a water pistol plus a few songs with suitably modified lyrics to suit the venue and location. All in all, a laugh-out-loud Pantomime for which the audience quite rightly showed their enthusiastic appreciation when the curtain fell. But best of all, the cast looked like they were enjoying every second of the performance. And so were the kids! (noisy sods!!!). Oh, and Daisy the Cow never looked nor sounded better! At the end, a few heartfelt words from Ashley himself reminded us how they had struggled to keep the panto running given the number of people down with the virus – it left us all appreciating this performance even more. A great investment of magic beans this afternoon! πŸ˜€πŸ˜€

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