I’ve lost track of how many times we’ve been to the pantomime at York Theatre Royal over the years, but it’s long become a non-negotiable part of our family Christmas. Somehow the festive season just wouldn’t seem complete without having subjected ourselves to a couple of hours of farcical, nonsensical entertainment courtesy of Berwick Kaler and crew.
This year, however, there was a sense of foreboding as I booked the tickets online. With one more little viking since we took our seats last Christmas, I was tempted to leave it for this year rather than risk dealing with a crotchety six-week-old in the stalls. But the thought of waiting another 12 months for our annual fix of silliness was too much, so I clicked ‘Order now’ and hoped for the best.
And I’m so glad I did. This year’s pantomime has all the elements we’ve come to love and expect: the improbable and utterly confusing plot, fab sets, brilliant live music, Oscar-worthy costumes and the all-important cameo from Harry Gration. There are wagon wheels, custard pies, flying wigs and a sofa quite like you’ve never seen before. But it’s the cast that really makes it. Berwick Kaler is on best-ever form, whether (vaguely) following the fresh and funny script or making off-the-cuff digs at the other members of the cast. As always, Suzy Cooper sparkles and Martin Barrass puts up with being the butt of the joke with never-ending good grace.
But the big news this year is that David Leonard is back where he belongs, playing the best baddie in Pantoland. This is brilliant news for everyone except little vikings of nervous disposition. While our six-week-old didn’t bat an eyelid (in fact she slept through the show from start to finish), the other two were a bit perturbed by the convincing villain. But, like many parenting problems, it was nothing that a couple of chocolate buttons couldn’t solve, and they clapped and laughed their way through the rest of the show. Old Mother Goose was a hit with all of us, and we’ll be back next year. Christmas isn’t Christmas without it.
Old Mother Goose – York Theatre Royal – until 31st January 2015 – 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk