Fringe Box



Review: Jokes And Energy Aplenty In Yvonne Arnaud’s Panto

Published on: 14 Dec, 2015
Updated on: 15 Dec, 2015

By Ferenc Hepp

We are well and truly into panto season all over the country now and The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre’s offering this year is one of the all-time favourites; Jack and the Beanstalk. Oh yes it is!

Kit Hesketh-Harvey as Dastardly Dick.

Kit Hesketh-Harvey as Dastardly Dick.

We were entertained by the usual mixture of familiar faces returning onto the Arnaud stage year after year, new additions to the usual high calibre cast of national and local celebrities, as well as an abundance of young talent.

Kit Hesketh-Harvey (of Kit and the Widow fame) is back as the baddie (Dastardly Dick), Peter Gordon (better known to the listeners of 96.4 Eagle radio’s morning show as PG) dons a dress again as Dame Dolly Trott and our very own favourite local Brummie, Jamie Brook, makes an appearance again as Silly-Billy, in his own words; “back by public….. transport”.

Making her Guildford panto debut is one third of the highly successful Fascinating Aida, Dillie Keane, playing the very glamorous, golfing Fairy Fairway.

The unique Brian Blessed voices Giant Blunderbore and Daisy the Cow appears not to have aged at all since her first appearance in Guildford’s Panto quite a few years ago.

There was certainly no lack of energy as we were introduced to Dastardly Dick, Fairy Fairway and Silly-Billy, and the boo-s and hisses, as well as our welcome of Billy, was probably heard as far as Bramley.

Peter Gordon as Dame Dolly Trott.

Peter Gordon as Dame Dolly Trott.

There was a good mixture of local references including the repair of Millmead Bridge (or as Kit put it, the bridge being blown up), middle-class mums and a reference to Woking’s panto by Dillie.

The opening group number was colourful and energetic, to the tune of Good Morning Baltimore from Hairspray, changed to Good Morning Merrydale.

The jokes throughout ranged from traditional panto gags loved by ‘children’ of all ages from four to 99, as well as a scattering of rather more risqué material which would have been more appreciated by the adult audience, but at the same time nothing that would offend younger ears.

The ‘custardiser’ scene works well to make the usual mess on stage before being cleared up with haste before the following scene and I was delighted that the all-time favourite Twelve Days of Christmas routine has not been left out this year either. Watch out if you are sitting in the stalls though, you may get rather wet at the end of the number!

Dillie Keane as Fairy Fairway.

Dillie Keane as Fairy Fairway.

The ghost scene also makes a welcome return, although with a slightly different ending this time to what we are used to.

The party was brought to a rousing conclusion by Guildford Funk to the tune of Uptown Funk, which got all of us out of our seats.

This was a truly entertaining show with something for everyone to mark the 50th anniversary of the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.

Dillie had some lovely and funny moments, although on occasion I felt that she was slightly out of place with what was happening on the rest of the stage.

Kit was very convincing as the baddie while PG looks more and more comfortable in a dress every year.

Steffan Lloyd-Evans and Louise Cannon as Jack and Jill.

Steffan Lloyd-Evans and Louise Cannon as Jack and Jill.

Jamie’s energy and sense of fun is to be admired; and they were all very ably supported by our handsome hero Jack, played by the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama graduate, Steffan Lloyd-Evans.

The very charming Princess Jill, Louise Cannon, all brought masterfully together under the direction of Gerry Tebbutt and the ever smiling children’s chorus, as well as the appropriately camp dancers.

Jamie Brook and Peter Gordon.

Jamie Brook and Peter Gordon.

The costumes (especially for the finale) were glamorous and sparkly; designed by Jamie Attle. However, I think all this can be summed up well by my eight-year-old godson’s review, who gave this production 375 stars!

Jack and the Beanstalk runs at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, until Sunday, January 3, and tickets are available via the website: or by calling the box office on 01483 440000.

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