5.00pm, 8 December, 2019
This is quite a grand statement, but it wouldn’t be Christmas in St Albans without Bob Golding on stage at the Alban Arena.
“This year” as he tells the audience, he’s Nurse Nellie and back in a dress after last year’s foray as Dandini. And while he was great in trousers, there’s something about the make-up and outlandish costumes that makes you feel you are home!
He also directs the whole shebang and has skillfully led the whole cast through all the panto elements you know and love in a mixture of slapstick, familiar songs, romance and effects – plus a lot of water!
Highlights included a brilliantly timed and very funny bathroom scene between Golding and Ian Kirkby, another St Albans panto stalwart, plus a water pistol chase through the auditorium.
But amongst the slapstick there were really clever routines, one using vegetable puns to tell a story and other jokes based on pop culture that became increasingly more complicated as the show went on. Then there was the familiar digs at neighbouring towns – Watford and Luton – and pantos, especially poor old Stevenage, and the famous bench scene which draws delighted groans from the audience as soon as it appears. Jemma Carlisle is, as always, fantastic in the title role. But this year, her charm is given an extra twist as she wakes from her 100-year sleep to slay the spectacular animatronic dragon – something your average human would find to be a stretch after a mere eight hours a night! It also gives a very welcome modern twist to the fairy tale.
CBeebies favourite Andy Day, was a fun and likeable Jangles the jester, who also got to sing his new single – a good tune but not the easiest for the audience to join in with in the songsheet section!
Ex-EastEnder Rita Simons as the evil fairy Carabosse was evil but stylishly sassy and retorted effortlessly to heckles from the audience, while Lisa Davina Phillip as Fairy Moonbeam was warm and engaging.
All in all it’s a hugely entertaining show which holds the audience in the palm of its metaphorical hand and brings a lot of laughter to all ages.