No Christmas is quite complete without a visit to the local Pantomime and Stoke has gained an unlikely reputation as consistently producing one of the best pantomimes in the country.
It’s success is without doubt the vision of returning stars Jonathan Wilkes (13 years) and Christian Patterson (10 years) and their commitment to improving every year. The strong local links and their involvement of the area goes deeper than a few throwaway lines and adds a hilarious integrity to the show. All whilst, of course, navigating through the fictional (and farcical!) traditional tale.
This year sees Christian taking the chair as Director and in the role of Friar Tuck – he simply “gets it” and the show radiates his energy and fun. As our regular readers will know, he is our Panto crush – one of a few truly exceptional panto dames, his all round brilliance and authenticity is worth the ticket money alone.
Local favourite Wilkes leads the show in the title role – a quality performer who is truly at home on stage as he tickles, flatters and insults the audience in equal measure.
There are new features spinkled throughout. A particularly impressive flight over the audience on a bat, a genuinely spectacular 3D section in the second half (which is actually quite scary in parts!) and a few surprises that we won’t spoil.
The show is mixed up with a team of dancers who are of a very high standard. Superb chorography by James Bennett/Nikki Wilkes and top execution by Wilkes Academy students and some local children really add to the excitement and quality of the show. The energy and professionalism from the whole company really adds to a superb atmosphere within the theatre.
The cast is of real quality throughout. Not least Kai Owen as the local favourite villain, Rebecca Lisewski and her unbelievable vocals as The Spirit of Sherwood and a hilarious performance that has the audience in absolute uproar from Delme Thomas as Will Scarlett. Finley Guy as Maid Marion and Peter Bonner as Little John complete a quality lead cast.
The team have again managed to produce something that has children and adults thoroughly entertained and long may this dream team continue.
You can imagine Jonathan and Christian sat at home discussing next years Panto saying “Well, we’ll have to do it again then won’t we!”. Their passion hasn’t faded and this panto’s reputation has only been enhanced with their relatively recent partnership with Qdos. With a seemingly renewed investment in sparkly sets, fresh ideas and great features (such as the 3D display in the second half) – it somehow manages to give audiences a new show every year whilst retaining an endearing consistency of themes that make the audience feel truly part of something special.
ROBIN HOOD plays the Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent until Sunday 6th January 2019. To book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/stoke.