Uplifting and hilarious pantomime proves why theatre is so important

Matt Crosby as Dame Trott and Stephen Beckett as Count Covidula in Dame Trott's Panto Palaver at Cambridge Arts Theatre.

Matt Crosby as Dame Trott and Stephen Beckett as Count Covidula in Dame Trott's Panto Palaver at Cambridge Arts Theatre. Picture: Martin Bond, A Cambridge Diary - Credit: Martin Bond, A Cambridge Diary

Full of all the silly jokes, loveable characters and catchy songs you would expect from a Christmas pantomime, this year’s Cambridge Arts Theatre’s production is one of their best yet.

It also takes on a timely resonance considering the awful 2020 we’ve all been through.

Isaac Stanmore as Wishee-Washee and Matt Crosby as Dame Trott in Dame Trott's Panto Palaver at Cambridge Arts Theatre.

Isaac Stanmore as Wishee-Washee and Matt Crosby as Dame Trott in Dame Trott's Panto Palaver at Cambridge Arts Theatre. Picture: Martin Bond, A Cambridge Diary - Credit: Martin Bond, A Cambridge Diary

A beacon of much-needed joy and cheer, for 75 minutes the small yet exceptional team of performers cast their magic spell and effortlessly transport the Christmas-jumper-wearing audience away from the worries of everyday life in 2020.

Isaac Stanmore as Wishee-Washee in Dame Trott's Panto Palaver at Cambridge Arts Theatre. Picture: Martin Bond, A Cambridge...

Isaac Stanmore as Wishee-Washee in Dame Trott's Panto Palaver at Cambridge Arts Theatre. Picture: Martin Bond, A Cambridge Diary - Credit: Martin Bond, A Cambridge Diary

Despite it being much shorter than their usual winter production, 'Dame Trott’s Panto Palaver' still ticks all the boxes: packing multiple plots into the whirlwind show while ensuring that not a second was wasted. 

Everything about the show hits the spot, resulting in a constant stream of laugh out loud moments.


Matt Crosby as Dame Trott in Dame Trott's Panto Palaver at Cambridge Arts Theatre. Picture: Martin Bond, A Cambridge Diary

Matt Crosby as Dame Trott in Dame Trott's Panto Palaver at Cambridge Arts Theatre. Picture: Martin Bond, A Cambridge Diary - Credit: Martin Bond, A Cambridge Diary


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Most impressive is how they manage to make light of the last 12 months in such a clever way that is worked into the script effortlessly. 

And, in extremely on-the-nose fashion, this year’s panto villain is none other than Count Covidula - who tries his best to ensure that it all ends in tears (and tiers). 

Ensemble and Lucy May Barker as Dick Whittington in Dame Trott's Panto Palaver at Cambridge Arts Theatre. Picture: Martin...

Ensemble and Lucy May Barker as Dick Whittington in Dame Trott's Panto Palaver at Cambridge Arts Theatre. Picture: Martin Bond, A Cambridge Diary - Credit: Martin Bond, A Cambridge Diary

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Yes, a lot of it is cheesy (jokes about toilet roll, two metres, self-isolation and more) but that’s exactly what we need from a panto in 2020.

Stephen Beckett as Count Covidula in Dame Trott's Panto Palaver at Cambridge Arts Theatre. Picture: Martin Bond, A...

Stephen Beckett as Count Covidula in Dame Trott's Panto Palaver at Cambridge Arts Theatre. Picture: Martin Bond, A Cambridge Diary - Credit: Martin Bond, A Cambridge Diary

Poking fun at anyone and anything that’s been a talking point since the pandemic hit in March, Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings and Priti Patel are among the politicians wittily sent up.

Tamsin January as Cinderella in Dame Trott's Panto Palaver at Cambridge Arts Theatre. Picture: Martin Bond, A Cambridge Diary

Tamsin January as Cinderella in Dame Trott's Panto Palaver at Cambridge Arts Theatre. Picture: Martin Bond, A Cambridge Diary - Credit: Martin Bond, A Cambridge Diary


Then there are the musical numbers - some pop songs you’ll instantly recognise and want to sing along to.

But there’s also a standout scene full of slapstick humour that is a timely riff on the traditional 12 days of Christmas song. It had the whole theatre in fits of giggles.

Matt Crosby as Dame Trott in Dame Trott's Panto Palaver at Cambridge Arts Theatre. Picture: Martin Bond, A Cambridge Diary

Matt Crosby as Dame Trott in Dame Trott's Panto Palaver at Cambridge Arts Theatre. Picture: Martin Bond, A Cambridge Diary - Credit: Martin Bond, A Cambridge Diary

Though it's the final post-show number that will really hit a nerve; with their voices full of emotion when they sang ‘Thank You For The Music’, each and every lyric resonates.

It also demonstrates their deep appreciation at being able to get back on the stage after the curtain being down for so long.

Matt Crosby as Dame Trott and Justin-Lee Jones as Baron Hardup in Dame Trott's Panto Palaver at Cambridge Arts Theatre.

Matt Crosby as Dame Trott and Justin-Lee Jones as Baron Hardup in Dame Trott's Panto Palaver at Cambridge Arts Theatre. Picture: Martin Bond, A Cambridge Diary - Credit: Martin Bond, A Cambridge Diary

After what's been an extremely tough year for everyone in the creative industries, it feels all the more important that as many people as possible go and see this wonderfully creative pantomime.

Justin-Lee Jones as Tommy the Cat and Lucy May Barker as Dick Whittington in Dame Trott's Panto Palaver at Cambridge Arts...

Justin-Lee Jones as Tommy the Cat and Lucy May Barker as Dick Whittington in Dame Trott's Panto Palaver at Cambridge Arts Theatre. Picture: Martin Bond, A Cambridge Diary - Credit: Martin Bond, A Cambridge Diary

It's also important to note that the theatre has implemented social distancing and safety measures: as well as temperature checks upon entry and at least one seat's space between families, there are friendly Dame Trott says 'Wear A Mask’ signs on doors and walls throughout the building. 

'Dame Trott's Panto Palaver' is at the Cambridge Arts Theatre until January 3. Book your tickets online.

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