It may only be a 635 seat venue but the Wyvern Theatre in Swindon always celebrates the festive season with a giant pantomime... appropriately so this year with a thrilling production of Jack And The Beanstalk. Once again, Qdos Pantomimes and One From The Heart combine to create Swindon's ultimate festive attraction.
For a third year, Keith Chegwin returns in a madcap role, Billy this year... and he is silly! Cheggers' entrance is met with a wall of sound and boy it's loud! There's a warmth that Keith exudes and a strong connection between him and the townsfolk of Swindon, it's clear to see why he's welcomed back. However, you're not going to get off lightly by sitting back with a packet of Maltesers when Cheggers is involved... standing up, shouting, screaming, pointing, singing... the lot... and you do it... I was shimmying with someone's granny at one point! Complete and utter madness from start to finish but you'd search for a lifetime to find someone who does panto better than Cheggers.
David Ashley, Keith Chegwin and Samuel Parker
Also returning to the Wyvern this year is David Ashley who's Dame couldn't be further from last year's villain Abanaza. A complete contrast, here we have an experienced dame - not a bloke in a frumpy frock harping on about a dead husband for two hours... of course there's the necessary amount of that but also a plethora of witty one-liners and clever audience participation - a credit to the writer Simon Aylin.
Jennifer Greenwood makes an excellent fairy - Fairy Nuff who impresses with a rendition of Defying Gravity to close the first half, a spectacle to rival that of Wicked. Simon Wegrzyn is a very strong Fleshcreep who flits in and out of Childcatcher mode and Riff Raff from the Rocky Horror Show and is excellent at sustaining a riotous booing. Andrew Whitehead is a great addition as the bumbling old King Manypence and Maria Holmes proves to be a tuneful Harp.
Jennifer Greenwood as Fairy Nuff
Samuel Parker is hero Jack and is every bit the man the young boys in the audience want to be. Laden with an axe and belting out hits of One Direction he's a pretty cool dude! Hollie Evans completes the pairing as Jill perfectly and brings the show into a more tender tone with her beautifully sung solo.
Joanna Goodwin is perhaps the unsung hero of the show, as choreographer she has put together the ultimate team of dancers. Swindon pantomime always has a strong ensemble and the team of second and third year students from Laine Theatre Arts are as ever the consummate professionals with boundless energy throughout. Exciting tap routines are rare in most shows other than 42nd Street but here it's all on show, even Cheggers manages to fit in a few wings! Daisy the cow can also tap dance... who knew!? "Lainey's" are often the ones to look out for and this bunch are destined for a fine future.
Keith Chegwin as Silly Billy with the ensemble.
Musical Director Robert Rayner is on fine form and great musical supervision from Ben Kennedy once again delivers the perfect blend of revised chart hits and some great but lesser known pantomime songs - even a Chegwinised version of the Friends theme tune is thrown into the mix!
Another unmissable family pantomime that prides itself on giant production values and prices to suit all pockets - so you won't have to sell the family cow to afford tickets! Be quick though - they're selling fast and the pantomime runs until Sunday 5 January 2014. You can book tickets by visiting the box office in person, calling 01793 524 481 or online here.
Listen to the entire pantomime podcast coverage of interviews throughout the rehearsal process: