Fee Fi Fo Fum….

I just can’t get enough panto at this time of year, so my eldest and I headed off to Bishop’s Stortford’s Rhodes Theatre last week for some quality mother-and-nearly-teenage-son time – watching a man with a beard in a dress, a girl in knee-high boots slapping her thighs, and a very wicked baddie singing about how thick everyone is.

 jack 1

Yes, it’s good festive family fun.  Jack and the Beanstalk at Rhodes is all very traditional – a proper dame, a principal ‘boy’ in tights, a pantomime cow, tons of slapstick, and lots of chatting away to the audience.

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The quality of the cracking young performers in the Bishop’s Stortford area has to be seen to be believed. Both the junior and senior choruses were brilliant – not just loads of enthusiasm but brimming over with poise, confidence and sheer flippin’ talent.   And the young leads – Jack, Jill, Silly Billy – were fabulous.  How Silly Billy manages to be quite that bouncy all the way through, I have no idea.

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And the dame.  Ah, good old Milky Mary.  A giant of a, er, woman – with a rather pronounced beard (it’s a result of drinking magic water, apparently), a ton of stage presence, and a fabulous way with the audience.  The look on my son’s face when she singled out the boy exactly one seat in front of him for some panto-dame attention was priceless – a mixture of horror and relief such as I’ve never seen on him before.   And how many costume changes?

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It’s never a real panto without a proper baddy, though.  And the Baron – ooo, he was wicked. Pencil-thin moustache, velvet britches, and a fine line in Three-Stooges-style slapstick stage fights – along with his thoroughly gormless henchmen Wingnut and Spanner.

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I’ve seen productions at the Rhodes Theatre before, and I love how they use projection and screens and special effects so inventively.  Clever stuff, and not maybe what you’d expect in a theatre of that size and in a local production.  Even my nearly-teen was impressed (and that, I tell you, is a tough job).

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There was lots of boo-ing and ‘it’s-behind-you’-ing – and some singing along at the end as well.  The song s were great – rewritten versions of ones you’d recognise.  I’ll never listen to Uptown Funk now without singing “you’re all thick, I’m better than you” under my breath – or watch Frozen without humming “let it grow” and picturing a mighty beanstalk.

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The little boy next to us, who must have been all of about 3, was beside himself with excitement – and the cheering and booing and singing were a great sign that what was happening on the stage was what the crowd was wanting to see.  Old-fashioned panto, just enough cross-dressing, plenty of innuendo to keep the dads chuckling, and a good old sing-along at the end.  Oh yes it was!


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The Urban Guide to the Countryside - Hertfordshire