This year’s Yvonne Arnaud pantomime features all the traditional ingredients, along with the spicy wit of a stand-up show.
Writer and director Jamie Smith’s production has something for everyone. From the eyeball-searing pink glitter of the castle ballroom to the grungy tanning salon favoured by the Ugly Sisters, no expense has been spared in this lavish and entertaining production.
Top of the bill is TV and pop star Michelle Gayle as Fairy Sweetness, a vision in silver spangles who appears in a volley of fireworks. But the real stars are hard-working Buttons (Jamie Smith, under his stage name Brook), the raven-haired Cinderella, a lovely unaffected performance by Georgie Leatherland, and Prince Charming, played with wide-eyed charm and a streak of naughtiness by Cameron Burt.
Cabaret king Kit Hesketh-Harvey brings his trademark sardonic wit, dripping with double-entendres, to the role of Dandini. The Ugly Sisters, Peter Gordon and Nick Barclay, are intent on bagging “any man with a pulse”, and their off-colour jokes and insults contrast with Buttons’ good-natured Brummie slapstick.
No Guildford panto would be complete without two cute miniature white horses and the battle of the 12 Days of Christmas. That’s when the Ugly Sisters smother Buttons with custard pies and he in turn spreads foam around the audience, to the delighted squeals of the children. There’s also a water cannon, so avoid the front six rows if you don’t like getting wet.
The wall scene is a real highlight; Prince and Cinders’ first duet is interrupted by a jealous Buttons. Jostling for Cinders’ kisses they push each other off the wall in an exhaustingly funny round of shoving, scrambling and harmonising.
The singing and dance sequences, by a well-schooled ensemble and some very small children, are as good as any West End show, and the unseen band, under Bryan Hodgson keeps the music flowing and the feet tapping. I left the theatre with the infuriatingly catchy Baby Shark song lodged in my head, and a feeling that the future of panto is rosy.