Fancy a night at Granny’s…?
Little Red Riding Hood might not be the most traditional of stories for a pantomime — but Hertford Theatre’s pantomimes are always something a little bit different and whole lot of special, and this year’s production is absolutely no exception. In fact, I think it might even be my favourite of theirs so far…
As ever, the panto experience at Hertford starts right in the foyer. The decorations are always gorgeous and get the magic going long before you take your seat. This year, you could even enjoy your own gingerbread Little Red — beautifully decorated and delicious.
The cast is brilliant. They’re all professional — or just out of theatre school — and they give it their absolute all. No former X-Factor finalists or Eastenders‘ C-listers here (although I’m, er, sure there’s nothing wrong with that…), and it makes a huge difference. It’s all about the show, about the performance, and not about whose almost-famous mug is on the poster.
Set in Russia, complete with its wolves and mysterious forests — and dancing bats, it’s a clever story-within-a-story, with a magical ‘Babushka’ turning a grumpy theatre impressario into a Big Bad Wolf — and then transforming herself into a feisty ‘Granny.’ Sound complicated? It’s not — my six-year-old Mudlet was transfixed and not at all confused.
‘Granny’ — who narrates some of the action — is fantastic. Her frisson-fuelled duet with the Wolf — singing about ‘a night at Granny’s’ — is fantastic, as is her store of treasures, and Colleen Daley slips seamlessly between her roles. And I’m actually just the teensiest bit in love with the Big Bad Wolf (Robert Oliver) after his storming rendition, rocking that nightie, of that classic anthem “Dude Looks like a Granny.”
Philippa Rose as Little Red herself, in the most gorgeous red riding hood, is feisty and resourceful — and her friendship with the perfectly-pitched ‘Simple Simon’ (Alex James Ellison) sits beautifully at the centre of the show. They’re real characters — I mean, they’re pantomime real characters.
As always, the young dancers are amazing. How they get such polished, professional performances out of such a youthful crew is a thing of wonder. And they all looked like they were having a great time, too.
And then there are the Three Little Pigs. Yes, you’re right, I don’t remember them from the original story either but… well, they’re hilarious. Simon is trying to sell them at the market — but the Big Bad Wolf has other ideas and Hamlet (geddit?), Horatio and Henrietta are none too keen either. They were brilliant. Trust me: you’ll never listen to the Spice Girls the same again…
I know that I love panto, but the real test is how much my littlest enjoys herself. And I reckon this picture of her, complete with snowflake facepaint, says just about all you need to know…
We’re still singing the songs, cracking the jokes, and — how many sleeps? — looking forward to next year’s offering.
All but two of these brilliant photographs are courtesy of Robert Mills Photography. Great, aren’t they? (Bet you can spot the ones taken by my Muddy self…)