The Roses Theatre King Arthur The Panto is set to put you in the festive spirit! Bringing King Arthur, an adaptation of the traditional story of The Sword in the Stone, to life with music, mayhem and exhilarating fun. Written by Maurice Gran and Nick Wilkes, and directed by Charlotte Peters.
I was lucky enough to go along to Press Night and am later going to see the new adult version. Here are my thoughts.
The Roses Theatre King Arthur The Panto Plot
Set in Medieval Tewkesbury, King Arthur The Panto is a tale of a simple baker’s boy Arthur (Laurie Denman) of becoming King and win the love of brave Guinevere (Victoria Lucie). To do this he must overcome Evil Sorceress Morgana Le Fey (Natalie Winsor), a fire-breathing dragon and a terrifying mum (Ma Baker, Ben Eagle), as well as figuring out how to use the Sword in the Stone!
The Magic of Panto at The Roses
If it isn’t broke then don’t fix it! As I say the Roses Theatre know the formula to a good Panto and I love how they manage to get a good mix of keeping things traditional but adding a bit of extra magic!
How the Roses Theatre do Panto Right
From the moment you enter The Roses Theatre the atmosphere is amazing. With everywhere decorated all festive. Of course as usual there are amazing props, costumes, lighting and effects, and scenery. My favourite has to be the dragon – not seen anything quite as good as the flying carpet back in 2012!
Changes between scenes were as always, quick, efficient and seamless. With the odd gag from the cast about why a particular scene was that way due to this. Such as when the Dame mentions about pulling the sheet out so the floor doesn’t get wet!
You may be interested in my previous post about Behind the Scenes at The Roses Theatre.
Classic Features in King Arthur The Panto
King Arthur The Panto has all the classic markings of a panto – comedy, romance, a baddie to boo, cream scene and all the usual panto jokes: You know the mix of those which appeal to children and others that go right over their heads, well hopefully they do – as some of them were pretty risky! Can’t wait to see how the adult version compares!
Roses Theatre Adaptations in King Arthur The Panto
Of course King Arthur The Panto is an adaptation with lots of local links. For example, with mentions of Cheltenham and Evesham, plus a scene at the Mop Fair. Whilst also maintaining elements of the original with Merlin as a character and a mention of the Lady in the Lake.
The Roses Theatre did a great job of getting the audience involved in a covid-safe manner. No children up on stage this year as the cast are all in bubbles. But they had us shouting (he’s behind you), cheering and booing. Of course there was also announcements – such as acknowledging who was in the audience, including volunteers, and wishing people a Happy Birthday.
Sound and Music
Sound and music was fantastic. With Steve Crickett on percussion for his 27th year! There were songs we know and love, with the lyrics adapted to fit the story. Not to mention popular elements such as the return of Baby Shark and lots of repetition of The Stick Song. Although when Arthur came out with a metal colander on his head and backing trays I was half expecting the Cheese Grater Dance from TikTok!
The Cast of King Arthur The Panto
Of course none of it would be quite so magical without the hardworking cast. The Roses Theatre always have high quality performers and this year was no exception. They were all remarkably talented, with great singing voices, believable characters and great at really getting the audience involved. Their chemistry was so good you’d have thought that they had worked together for ages.
In fact Laurie Denman played the part of Arthur so well that I was surprised at how powerful and fantastic his singing was! His character is more of a bit of an idiot to be honest, and quite shy you see. Also a mention for Murray Andrews who did a fantastic job of switching his voice from beggar to Merlin. He had a real thespian twang too.
Hayley Russell – Laughalot
This year I personally was really impressed by Hayley Russell who played Lancelot. As I say I have come to expect a certain level of high performance at The Roses Theatre Panto. ALL performers are great at acting, singing, dancing etc but this year I feel Hayley really brought something additional to the panto.
Not only did she have such energy and chemistry, but she had MAGIC! We saw her sawing Arthur in half, juggling, fire-eating and mime within the ultra violet section.
The Roses Theatre Panto Dame Ben Eagle
Talking of coming back we are once again blessed with Ben Eagle playing the Dame. In case you weren’t aware he has previously been the Dame since 2017! Sleeping Beauty (Queen Dorothy), Dick Whittington (Sarah the Cook) and Aladdin (Widow Twankey). Prior to that he was Friar Tuck in 2016’s Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood. In fact he lets you know that as one of his lines!
Ben is absolutely hilarious and I was just willing for his opening scene to arrive. By the sound of the reaction of the audience I wasn’t the only one! Ben makes the same gags year on year – such as mentioning that he’s not a man – but yet somehow it is funny every time. Another example of this is when he picks on a man in the front row. This year it was Peter. Speaking of Peter’s partner he said that, “she wouldn’t have been my first choice.” This was followed up by saying to said partner, “I bet you wished you’d made the effort!”
Being funny and quick-witted aren’t Ben’s only qualities – no he wears those fantastic Dame costumes well too!
A natural performer I was unable to tell if his lines were scripted or improvisation! For instance when he was telling the audience not to encourage the young performers as they did the Sticky Song again and again!
Of course this is all supplemented with The Chorus. This year they were split into Swords and Stones. Auditions were held for those aged between 9-15 years old who have experience in in modern dance and/or ballet. They then would perform in approximately 27 shows over the 5 weeks. This year there were a lot of hopefuls and therefore the standards were really high.
It was great to see the Chorus were allowed to shine so much. It certainly felt like the choreography was focused on them. Not to mention them being involved in such important scenes – such as the one with Ben Eagle’s entrance!
For the performance I saw it was the turn of The Stones. I am biased and know the two older girls and it was a delight to see them perform. Again another benefit of visiting the local Panto.
As I say the standard of The Chorus was really high. However for me, apart from the girls I know, one little girl really stood out, Ellie Longney. There was something special about her performance that to me just felt a bit more. There was definitely a lot of character. Fingers crossed she will return again next year.
Keep Coming Back to The Roses Theatre Panto
In fact The Roses Theatre Panto is so good you will want to come back! Suitable for all the family I have been coming for years with family members varying in age:
- 2012 with Aladdin
- 2013 for Jack and the Beanstalk
- 2016 Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood
- 2017 Sleeping Beauty
- 2018 Dick Whittington
- 2019 Aladdin
Help Support The Roses Theatre
Times have been tough with the pandemic and The Roses Theatre needs support. Having been closed for 75% of the time since March 2020, they only made 2% of expected sales income and had to restructure the business in order to survive. They now urgently need help to raise £60,000.
Their work helps Young Creative groups, community events and clubs, work with disadvantaged children and adults, as well as staging their fabulous pantomimes! You can help by becoming a Friend or Patron; Making a one off donation; becoming a volunteer or buying tickets or Gift vouchers.
Every penny you give will have a big impact:
- £25 would support a bingo social session for isolated older people
- £50 a youth facilitator for one session or online wellbeing or creative workshop for those who cannot access the venue
- £100 a full session of young creatives, supporting 8-25 year olds to learn new skills
- £300 a term of Roses Choir – a vital social lifeline
- £500 a costume for the Panto Dame or a camera for the young creatives to learn film making on
- £1000 full term of young creatives or a year or writing sessions which support preventing social isolation
- £5000 Support the young community cast, giving 8-15 year olds the opportunity to perform in the Panto or Young Creatives to make a film and exhibit it at The Roses Theatre.
Available until December 31st 2021. Buy your tickets here