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Panto returns to Brighton

With Christmas shows becoming a firm tradition in our family as the kids have grown, we were delighted to see the return of big stage panto to Brighton this year.

Spoilt for choice in 2017, Brighton welcomes not one but four productions across the city.

One of the most popular fairytales retold in panto has to be the story of Cinderella. We were lucky enough to catch the opening night at Hilton Brighton Metropole.

It’s been ten years since the enchanting tale of ‘Cinders’ and her sidekick Buttons was told in Brighton. The production at the glamorous Hilton Metropole is by Brighton Premiere, which is a collaboration of the Brighton Academy of Performing Arts and event company E3, producers of The Snowman Spectacular Ball.

With Daisy, our eldest daughter’s new found love of the stage after her first appearance in Pinnochio this week, she has been frantically Googling local theatre schools and Brighton Academy has cropped up a few times recently. Founded by four highly accredited West End theatre performers, the academy is just six years old, but has become the most prestigious performing arts college in Sussex and offers professional and affordable training for all.

So while Daisy was off strutting the boards at The Attenborough Theatre, her sister Hunny (7) and I took my oldest friend and her three-year-old Lily off to experience their first panto together. To say Lily loved it was an understatement. It’s just as well the show was full of families as both kids spent the first half jumping up and down in their seats, and by the second half, they were dancing in the aisle with the performers!

What a magical moment watching the kids faces light up when the stage erupts with a huge cast of beautifully dressed dancers. Peacocks, rabbits, foxes and even a ballet dancing swan!

It was pretty clear both of our kids were desperate to get on the stage, so we had to keep dragging them back to their seats. I love that panto is such a family affair and you are encouraged to join in with singing, cheering and a bit of booing and hissing.

For me, there were one or two bits of traditional slapstick and ‘he’s behind you!’ comedy missing from this particular production, but that didn’t detract from the pleasure of seeing the children enjoy it so much.

Eventually, their wish was granted and both girls were invited up on stage. An experience I’m sure they’ll never forget.

 

The cast includes a number of Brighton personalities including David Hill as one of the ugly sisters, Lou Nash and Alex Baker (Juice 107.2) and Dean Kilford (Latest TV / BBC Sussex) playing Buttons. Also staring West End performers Joseph Peters and Alasdair Buchan and Keris Lea playing the Fairy Godmother. THE ACTUAL David Essex as Cinders father even makes a cameo appearance via satellite after getting stuck on a Southern Rail train due to a tortoise on the line somewhere outside Haywards Heath. The beautiful princess ‘Ella’ is played by Hanna Bailey who stole the star role after a countywide search for Cinders resulting in over 300 applicants.

The Hilton Metropole on Brighton seafront provides an exciting theatre venue for kids, with revolving hotel doors (we had to go around at least 5 times), grand full-length ornate mirrors, sweeping royal staircases and even bumper cars in the foyer. 

The girls enjoyed the glitz and glamour of pretending we were princesses who lived in the hotel and we made the most of the Christmas fair before the show.

Santa himself was there to tell the kids stories during the interval and the girls enjoyed playing in the artificial snow. Take your purse though as this was the only free thing to do with plenty of other temptation from doughnuts and sweets to funfair rides and hot dogs. It was fantastic to see such worthy local children’s charities supported by the production.

Each performance is raising vital money for the three biggest children’s charities in Sussex – and that’s what it’s all about really isn’t it? Remembering those less fortunate at this time of year and giving if you can.

Chailey Heritage Foundation is a Sussex charity which educates and cares for children and young people aged 3-25 with complex physical disabilities and health needs.

The Rockinghorse Children’s Charity has been supporting local children for 50 years. The fundraising arm of the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital and the Trevor Mann Baby Unit (TMBU) in Brighton as well as the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) in Haywards Heath.

Chestnut Tree House is the children’s hospice for Sussex, caring for children and young people with life-limiting illnesses. They hold a weekly lottery draw which you can sign up to here

The Brighton Premiere Ltd Team plan to make panto a firm fixture in our city for years and next year’s production of Aladdin with take place at the Hilton Metropole too.

For a full list of local pantos visit Best of Brighton.

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