Review: Panto in a Pickle the perfect tonic to a tough year

Richard Gauntlett as a panto dame

Richard Gauntlett will be getting laughs at the Theatre Royal's Panto in a Pickle - Credit: Norwich Theatre Royal/Max Hilton

It’s almost Christmas and that means the pantomime is back and centre stage at the theatre.


But this is no ordinary year, not by a long stretch, and the fact there is some festive frivolity at Norwich’s Theatre Royal is rather extraordinary.


After months of having to deal with the depressing reality of the coronavirus pandemic - and an avalanche of restrictions on daily life that come with it - it was just nice to be out.


The theatre has been crying out to have people back there and while it could not be the normal full house, due to social distancing, it was a very happy crowd.


My goodness we’ve certainly missed it as Panto in a Pickle so resoundingly proved.


Written, directed and starring Norwich’s pantomime king Richard Gauntlett, the production told the twisted tale of a plethora of tales all mixed up that needed putting back together.


It might not have been a cure to the year we’ve had but it was certainly a timely tonic.


Gauntlett, one of just three performers on stage, as ever was sublime as well as ridiculous in equal measure with an array of comic quips, including looking “back to the good old days...in February”.


He alone is worth an annual visit to Norwich to see a master of merriment at work.


But every great comedian has a sidekick and in Tucker, who played Silly Simon, Buttons, Igor, Muddles and Aladdin he had the perfect partner.


The pair of them joked around while Harriet Bunton worked her magic as Fairy, Tiny, Princess Aurora and Peter Pan.


Panto in a Pickle star Harriet Bunton

Harriet Bunton, from Norwich, will perform in the Norwich Theatre Royal's Panto in a Pickle! - Credit: Norwich Theatre Royal


As notes on the back of the programme stated: “As this extraordinary year comes to a close, being able to temporarily welcome audiences back to Theatre Royal is the best Christmas present we could possibly wish for”.


And so say all of us.


The ovation given to the fantastic three at the end of the night was as moving as it was genuine.


Panto in a Pickle is proof positive that we all need a little bit of theatre back in our lives. Roll on 2021.


Norwich Theatre Royal’s socially-distanced festive extravaganza runs until December 24.
Log into www.norwichtheatre.org to find out more.

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