Goldilocks and the Three Bears—The Rock 'n' Roll Panto

Peter Rowe
New Wolsey Theatre
New Wolsey, Ipswich

Luke Thornton as Bobo Credit: Mike Kwasniak
Steve Simmonds as Dame and Jared Leathwood as Tommy Topper Credit: Mike Kwasniak
Jared Leathwood as Tommy Topper Credit: Mike Kwasniak

The New Wolsey panto is back with a bang! The last three years have been very difficult for the theatre industry, but this year’s offering is back to its rollicking, rock 'n’ rolling best with a full cast, no cutaways to filmed scenes to break up the action and enough energy on stage to power up the National Grid.

This is Peter Rowe’s thirteenth panto for the theatre and if Goldilocks seems a bit of a strange choice, it’s because he’s now done all the more obvious ones. And don’t expect much of the traditional story either—this is basically panto in a circus tent with the fable tacked on, but this gives the set and costume designer Cleo Pettitt the chance to have a ball and gives the panto genre a refreshing twist.

In fact, the whole of the New Wolsey auditorium has been transformed into a big top to showcase a first rate set of actor-musicians whose pace and energy never drops and whose commitment to this performance is 110%.

This year, there are four main protagonists who each have a turn taking centre-stage led by the ever-watchable Steve Simmonds in the Dame role he seems to have made his own. Simmonds is naturally funny and unlike a lot of celebrity Dames doesn’t feel he has to glam up, so the outfits are completely over-the-top, he gurns and ad libs, patters off the one-liners and basically makes the stage his own.

His arch enemy is another New Wolsey regular, Richard Costello, who makes the most of his part as slimy Wilberforce T Whippum, the owner of a rival circus troupe who wants to buy out poor Dame Belinda Big Top, down on her luck and short of cash, and whose own daughter Goldilocks, played by the delightful and feisty Lucy Wells, has gone to work for him in a three bears act.

Jared Leathwood is a relative newbie but you wouldn’t know it as he makes the cheeky chappie Ringmaster part his own. He and Goldie are the love interest and both have great voices, making the most of their duos.

They are well supported by an incredible cast including Luke Thornton as sad clown BoBo and Natasha Lewis popping up (literally) to narrate the story as Fairy Aurora.

The script is fairly minimal this year as the songs take a large chunk of the action and there are some great ones including "The Show Must Go On", "Jump", "I’m Still Standing", "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves" and of course Elvis’s "Teddy Bear".

The cast are all amazing and play a variety of instruments as well as sing and play different parts. The speed of the quick changes and the relentless pace of the whole production left this member of the audience gasping for breath.

And of course there is a twist in the tale when we (finally) meet the Bears—but I won’t spoil it for you.

Be warned: the humour is pretty adult this year, and there’s not much slapstick, so although there is a cute camel and some puppet parrots, I wouldn’t recommend it for kids under 12 or the easily offended.

But for everyone else, this a fabulous night’s entertainment and certainly back to the New Wolsey’s seasonal best.

Reviewer: Suzanne Hawkes

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