Feeling blue? Take the panto tonic!

Sleeping Beauty, the panto at Colne Muni
Sleeping Beauty, the panto at Colne Muni

It really wouldn’t be Christmas... or at least New Year... without a trip to the panto!

Among the best established and most popular in the region is the annual panto at Colne’s Municipal Hall, better known as Colne Muni.

Written and produced for almost two decades by George Critchley, the Muni panto has become an institution which every year attracts scores of Ribble Valley families – not to mention Brownies, Cubs and other youth groups – across to the neighbouring borough.

This year’s offering is a version of that timeless classic “The Sleeping Beauty”, though to be brutally honest, it doesn’t really matter that much which fairytale is told. The plot is simply the vehicle for all the peculiar particulars of panto to be crammed into – the songs, the sketches, the over-the-top characters, the audience participation – and no-one crams quite like Critchley!

This show has fun and frolics for everyone; the kids will love it and the grown-ups will too. Just leave your inhibitions at the door and you’ll soon be booing, cheering and yelling “It’s a ghost!” with the very best of ’em!

For me, what truly makes it fun is seeing the cast having just as good a time as their audience; they feed off each other. This cast was marvellous, from Shorelle Hepkin (known to younger audience members from CBBC’s Wolfblood) as Fairy Liquid, to Darren John Langford (Hollyoaks) as the ridiculously pompous and camp Lord Chamberpot, and Nikki Horsburgh as the delightful Princess Aurora, they were all “in it 100%”. So too were Karl Greenwood as the energetic Simple Simon, Jenny Layton as the villanous Carabosse the Maleficent (boo, hiss!), Sam Pope as the dashing Prince Valentine, and Ashleigh Graham and Anna Knowles as the balletic and comedic Fairy Cake and Fairy Nuff.

But remorselessy stealing every scene – just as a proper Panto Dame should – was the inimitable Keith De’ Winter as Nurse Nanny Nightingale. Never was such a cartoonesque gargoyle of a “woman” so utterly loveable as in De’ Winter’s passionate embrace!

If you want to put the stresses of Christmas behind you and for three blissful hours ignore entirely the January blues, there’s no better medication I can prescribe than Mr Critchley’s Theatrical Tonic, available in large doses at Colne Muni until January 18th

For details of all performances and to book tickets visit www.themuni.co.uk or call 01282 661234.

From the left, Princess Aurora, Nurse Nanny Nightingale, Fairy Liquid and Lord Chamberpot, on stage in The Sleeping Beauty at Colne Muni until January 18th.