Fee Fi Fo Fum we smell Christmas entertainment and lots of fun. The socially distanced Peterborough panto Jack and the Beanstalk is magic!
Against all the odds the team at The Cresset theatre were determined to say ‘boo’ and hiss at the Coronavirus and have managed to bring us a socially distanced pantomime.
For the first time the audience has been divided into ‘bubbles’ on separate tables and there’s no interval. There’s also none of the shouting and screaming – more foot stomping and clapping – but that doesn’t mean the spirit of panto fun has been lost.
We have to hand it to the cast and crew as they’ve really made sure Christmas wasn’t cancelled and the show did go on… and it still does, right through until Christmas Eve!
ESP reporter Darren Grigas loves an adventure (he’s usually up a mountain/desert/frozen lake) so we sent him up the beanstalk instead to see what he and his family thought to this panto with a difference…
“Whilst many shows have had to reluctantly cancel due to the many restrictions imposed on venues, The Cresset has worked hard to still deliver a fun and entertaining Christmas panto.
“I took the family along to enjoy a festive dose of Jack and the Beanstalk in their socially distanced set-up. We were led to our table, with menus for drinks and snacks and we just needed to turn our light on for table service. It felt pretty classy and the staff were on the ball waiting tables throughout the performance.
“The show was a lot of fun, some great sing-along moments, a strong cast doing a cracking job all whilst remaining socially distanced on stage at the same time.
“It must have taken some work to hold back on the usual interactions performers are used to, but they gave us a fun-packed show nonetheless.
“Dame Trott was a particularly funny highlight with some brilliant outfits, if you’re a dad on the front row, be prepared for a bit of flirting, you have been warned!
“It was really nice to get out for a bit of normality and I’m grateful for the hard work put in by the whole production team so we could still get our traditional fix of a Christmas panto.”
So that’s Darren’s verdict on Jack and the Beanstalk, socially distanced style – you can check it out for yourself by booking now on 01733 265705 or visit www.cresset.co.uk
The team have done a cracking job and Penny Hansen, Head of Cresset Commercial Activities told ESP she’s delighted with how the panto’s going – “We’re just absolutely thrilled to be putting this show on. It’s different for sure, but it’s almost even more magical, after the year we’ve had, to see cast, crew and audiences all experiencing the joy of pantomime.
“The hard work, passion and determination that has gone into making this show happen is phenomenal and we are incredibly proud of our team. The cast are understandably emotional to be back on stage in front of an audience, but they’ve done brilliantly with all the restrictions and guidelines they’ve had to adapt to, and audience feedback has been fantastic, both about the show itself and the organisation and safety measures we have put in place which is great to hear.
Leading the cast is veteran performer Mike Holoway as King Crumble. Mike’s illustrious career includes three years as Joseph in the West End, numerous TV credits and as a member of pop group Flintock. He’s also performed in countless pantomimes and productions, and is currently finishing his latest album!
Mike told ESP – “I’ve done about 29 pantos and I’m very passionate about theatre. We want to fly the flag and it is quite a brave move.
“Without the children coming to a theatre and having a good experience… they become the future generation of theatre going audience so if you can’t grab them through things like pantomime, it’s a real problem.
“I love seeing the kids’ faces, the wonderment, their belief in the story – you can bounce off the audience feedback. For me live performing is magical.”
It’s good to see Mitch Hewer, star of TV’s Skins, Britannia High and Casualty back once again and on good form staring in his fifth Cresset pantomime as our hero Jack. He always gives it his all and clearly has a great time doing it.
Another familiar face is Victoria Jane as Princess Isabelle. Victoria’s credits include CBBC’s Teletubbies, and the smash hit tour of In The Night Garden, as well as tours with Spice Girls and Little Mix tribute shows and many other credits.
Keeping things in check as the irrepressible Dame Trott is local actor and producer Phil Norton. As well as starring in local and national pantomimes, Phil’s credits include national theatre tours, and a lot of voice over work, including most recently more hand sanitiser ads than he can count!
Phil told ESP – “It’s obviously a really popular pantomime so it’s lovely to be welcomed onto the team.
“I love it, it’s just so important as a good start to theatre. That lasting impression is so important to children. It’s got everything in it and everyone can enjoy it. It’s the magic we all need now.”
Sprinkling some magic over the show is some homegrown talent in the form of Vanessa Boland, as Fairy Liquid. Originally from Peterborough she’s returned to her home town and stepped back on the Cresset stage after last appearing in a panto there as a child and attending dance classes at the Cresset’s dance studio.
Vanessa told ESP – “Fairy Liquid is a lot like Barbara Windsor – I thought it would be funny to play her as that type of character, she’s very giggly, very silly. For most people panto is a Christmas tradition so it’s really exciting this is happening. We really need it.”
Jack’s nemesis, the Giant’s henchman Fleshcreep, is played by Richard Mann. Richard is an accomplished actor and voice over artist, and has also played Mick Jagger for over 20 years in touring show The Rolling Stones Now so he’s got the moves too!
Hats off to writer and director Stuart Morrison who’s been producing Cresset pantomimes for over ten years now, and has done another great job in the most difficult of circumstances.
Already looking ahead to next year Penny Hansen says there’s more fairytale fun and magic planned.
“We will of course be back to our full scale production next year with Beauty & the Beast, but for 2020 we are happy to be finishing it on such a positive note; with song and dance, terrible jokes, smiling faces and a lot of Christmas magic.”
Book now on www.cresset.co.uk
Photos: Chris Brudenell and The Cresset