Monday, 17 December 2018

First Time at The Theatre: Puppet Panto!

We were gifted tickets in exchange for this post, all opinions are my own.
Until Saturday 15th December we were yet to experience a theatre trip as a family of five. We haven't even tried watching a movie all together. Anyone with young children know that their attention spans wane over time, plus we'd feel bad if they disturbed other viewers. But, I am pleased to say that our first theatre pantomime experience was a complete success, and I am certain that it was 'Puppet Panto' by the Bridport-based Stuff and Nonsense Theatre Company that made it a memorable family time that we will reflect on fondly.

Puppet Panto Ticket and promotional leaflet


We were kindly sent tickets in exchange for this post and I have to admit that, initially, I did think that perhaps Freyja was too young for it. We were allocated 5 seats right towards the back of Hedge End's The Berry Theatre which were not far away from exits should we needed to have duck out. Thankfully we didn't need to as for the vast majority of time, Freyja (2 years old this Christmas Eve) was transfixed on the lights and sounds and playful puppetry that performers Niki McCretton, Toby Gascoigne and Jenny Harold brought to life. I believe this to be a testament to their hard work and dedication in producing a family friendly panto which will be guaranteed to suit a wide age range of audience, from 1 to 100.

So, what is 'Puppet Panto' all about? Just in case you are planning on seeing it, (it runs until 31st December), I shan't give too much away. Take a look at the company's brief Youtube trailer:

From their press:
When a bunch of puppets try to put on a performance of Snow White, how will they cope when everything starts to go wrong? What will they do to make sure the show can go on?! Join our company of puppets on a bold and hilarious adventure full of mishaps, comedy and song. Can you help them solve their problems and put on a brilliant show?!
PUPPET PANTO is an exciting new co-production for Christmas 2018 between The Point and their @HOME company, Stuff and Nonsense, returning to The Berry Theatre by popular demand following their recent sell-out shows, The Gingerbread Man, The Enormous Turnip and The Little Red Hen.
Stuff & Nonsense make inspiring theatre for bold adventurers, placing children’s creativity at the heart of what they do and enabling adults to become seriously playful. Their energetic, thought-provoking and playfully mischievous productions have been enjoyed by over a quarter of a million people since 2010.
It's a real Christmas treat for all ages of the family! Warning: this show is seriously playful! 

Puppet Panto stage and set The Berry Theatre

For the number of puppets, (which attempt to rejig their performance of Snow White after a series of alterations by a cast member with ominous intentions involving a certain poisoned apple) the three Stuff and Nonsense performers did incredibly well. It was evident that they didn't mind improvising when interacting with audience members; lots of laughter all round with plenty of jubilant clapping (especially from my three children!). 95 mins with a 15 minute interval felt like the perfect duration of panto for our children's age range of essentially 2, 4 and 6 years old. They loved joining in with the booing, clapping and "oh no you're not!" synomynous with traditional pantomime. Lily and Alexander were sitting on the edges of their seats, entranced by the storyline and eager to show me where some woodland puppets were appearing.

The King and The Queen of Puppet Panto
The King and The Queen in their castle, beside the magic mirrors.
Snow White versus the cleaner Puppet Panto The Berry Theatre
Uh oh, could this tussle be a potential problem for Puppet Panto?

Snow White and the Woodland Cottage The Berry Theatre
Snow White hiding within a tree beside the woodland cottage
A Magic mirror Snow White Puppet Panto
An example of a Magic Mirror creature

Snow White and the poisoned apple Puppet Panto The Berry Theatre
Is it too late? Snow White has taken a bite of the poisoned apple!
(I found The King and his knight Clod Monty Pythonesque)
We were thrilled to be able to go backstage following their opening performance which was very clearly a huge success as it was a full house. Niki kindly showed us Lily and Alex's choice of puppets from the panto, namely the trio of travelling mice who sell a variety of wares including potions to turn you into a duck...and worse. It was a great opportunity to get up close to the set; it was incredible to see some of the very narrow spaces which the puppeteers have to contort themselves into!
The travelling mice Puppet Panto The Berry Theatre
One of Lily's favourite puppets - Emmental the mouse.
Lily and one of the mice Puppet Panto The Berry Theatre
Alex with one of the Puppet Panto mice The Berry Theatre
Alexander with one of the mice which have brilliant names - Emmental, Cheesyface and Manchego!

All in all, if you appreciate a spot of slapstick humour and a playful, interactive storyline, then this is an ideal improvisation puppet pantomime for you, no matter what your age.
Where? The Berry Theatre, Hedge End, Hampshire
When? Until 31st December 2018
How Much? Full price: £11.00 Over 60: £9.00 Student: £9.00 Under 16 years: £9.00
Duration? 95 minutes with 15 minute interval
Lily getting to grips with one of the puppets, and meeting The King and Niki

Puppets by Lily and Alex Puppet Panto
Say "CHEESE!"

Rob having a go, Puppet Panto
Rob having a go - he tells the kids amazing made up stories with a variety of voices so perhaps he needs to add puppets to his repertoire 
 Many thanks to A Load of Stuff and Nonsense theatre company and The Berry Theatre, and of course Alice of Southampton Bloggers for this opportunity. We had a fabulous time which was the highlight of an exceptionally rainy December Saturday. We can't recommend Puppet Panto highly enough - we would absolutely watch any other productions made by the team too.
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