2pm, 31 December, 2019
The Hertford Theatre panto is fast becoming somewhat of a new year tradition for our family – although I’m starting to think we should just see it earlier – and then go again!
It absolutely never fails to entertain and bring a huge festive smile to your face – there is no one reason why, just a successful combination of good things that steer away from some of the traditional panto elements. There’s definitely a place for traditional set pieces but in Hertford it’s truly refreshing to get something a bit different.
It doesn’t rely on stunt casting, so there are no “names” so to speak, just hugely talented professional performers that also look like they are really enjoying what they are doing.
It also avoids the usual panto stories such as Aladdin and Cinderella, instead going for more fairy and folk tales, but whatever story it is telling, it always manages to incorporate other fairy tales and characters and watching how this happens makes it creative and exciting.
This year the main story is The Snow Queen, which tells of Gerda’s quest to rescue her friend Kingsley from the evil queen, but who would have thought you’d also get Little Red Riding Hood’s Big Bad Wolf, a bit of Hansel and Gretel, the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe and a nod to Belle from Beauty and the Beast in runaway bride Rose?
It’s also impressive how they avoid the songs that you hear in every other panto and make bold choices such as this year’s Shotgun, Somewhere Only We Know, The Show Must Go On and Born This Way, all of which absolutely work using some clever word changes to make them fit well.
As Gerda, Lauren Jacobs brings a sweet innocence and a big voice to the role as she searches for the equally excellent Josh Dorn as Kay. His emotional rendition of Say Something was a particular highlight.
She is helped along the way by three Magpies, Maximillian (Chris Draper), Malachy (Elliot Moore) and Muriel (Katherine Victoria) with the first acting as a narrator who keeps the action moving. Other characters who either assist or hinder Gerda’s quest include Jack Frost, the Big Bad Wolf, a Deer, a Huntsman and a Witch but the numerous parts are played by the three magpie actors, showing their great versatility.
Meanwhile, Anya Hamilton in the title role brought both evil and a fabulous voice to the part. It takes a brave lady to take on both Gaga and Mercury and she carries off both with style.
The foyer is beautifully decorated in an ice palace theme to perfectly set the scene as you walk in and it all finishes with the crowd-pleasing You Can’t Stop the Beat from Hairspray. In between, you see a show that is stylish, slick, endlessly creative and lots of fun and to add a bit of jeopardy, you may or may not get covered in icing / snow!