Is panto as popular as ever? Oh, yes it is!

Is panto as popular as ever? Oh, yes it is!
'Peter Pan' Pantomime at Tunbridge Wells Assembly Hall

Tens of thousands attended productions in the two towns this Christmas, where Peter Pan was performed in both.

At the Assembly Hall Theatre around 20,000 flocked to see UK Productions’ version of the JM Barrie classic over the Christmas period.

Running from December 7 until January 5 and starring Lloyd Warbey from ITV’s Art Attack as the eponymous boy who never grew up and Holby City and Eastenders’ Paul Bradley playing his arch rival Captain Hook, the production wowed the crowds with an extended stage, huge sets and lavish song and dance routines.

“Panto is most definitely alive and well in Tunbridge Wells,” said Assembly Hall Theatre director, JJ Almond.

 “It has traditional roots but it still works today because the format allows it to be brought up to date using current music and humour.

“Special effects can be even more magical now as technology is incorporated into productions, we’ve even run STEM [science, technology, engineering and maths] workshops for schools as part of the Peter Pan programme this year which have been very well received,” he added.

“It has had some fantastic reviews and although we don’t have final figures yet we know that nearly 20,000 visitors have seen the show and there has been an increase in bookings from schools. We think overall the attendance will be comparable to previous years.”

Elsewhere in the town, Trinity Theatre’s Christmas production of the Hans Christian Anderson classic, The Snow Queen, showed audiences had a taste for alternatives to panto too.

The first show under new theatre director Kezia Cole, ran from December 12-31 and proved immensely popular.

“I was thrilled to create my first show for Trinity, it was something a little different for our audiences who have been incredibly supportive and I hope they will come and find out about the brilliant work we will be developing this year,” said Ms Cole.

“My favourite audience response was from one of the young people who came who described it as ‘Brilliant and psycho!’, which I think has to count as my favourite feedback on any show ever.”

Wicked Productions’ performance of Peter Pan at Tonbridge’s EM Forster Theatre, featuring local entertainer Tom Swift, saw 90 per cent capacity across all 41 shows during its run from December 13 to January 5.

Kat Portman Smith, Theatre Manager said it was their ‘best year for us yet’.

“There was a real buzz around the show and we are thrilled to have delighted so many people. For many panto is their only visit to the theatre and we want to make it a great experience that will hopefully encourage them back,” she said.

“Working with Tom Swift at Wicked Productions means we can offer our audiences a truly top quality show full of jokes, special effects, music and magic, and in our auditorium audiences are never far from the action, keeping them involved from beginning to end.”

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