Damian's Pop Up Panto

Location: Crucible Theatre, Sheffield Theatres, Yorkshire


By Tim Saunders

We all need a thoroughly good laugh at the moment and yet sadly, so many pantomimes across the UK have been cancelled this year. And while it might not be possible to actually visit a theatre thank goodness Sheffield Theatres have grasped the nettle and come to the rescue by streaming Damian’s Pop Up Panto.

My family and I live in Hampshire and so in a normal year we wouldn’t be able to see Damian Williams, who, a quick search of Google reveals, is well-known in Sheffield for playing a panto dame. We’re in good hands then.

Written by Paul Hendy, who regularly writes for Sheffield Theatres, Damian’s Pop Up Panto only features a cast of five and the hugely talented musical director James Harrison. Before the show begins Paul introduces us to them in their dressing rooms. A lovely personal touch.

It’s a mighty difficult task to translate the pantomime experience from the stage to the screen not least in filming it and delivering a good level of sound. It’s a huge success and the team should be very proud. It’s a very humorous way to spend one-and-a-half hours. Despite there being no live audience, home viewers are urged to get involved by stamping their feet and clapping.  

We watch through a projector connected to our laptop and the large screen together with the high volume really does enhance the whole experience.

As Von Bad Apple is covered in loo roll he says, “We do this three times a day and you wonder why there’s a loo roll shortage...”

“Keep that 2m rule,” orders Dolly getting out her tape measure and then in another breath: “Socially distanced sword fight.” Dolly must wear six completely different outfits, some multi-coloured and some featuring hats. One hat is shaped like an umbrella. All the stops have been pulled out with this at a time, when as they remind us half a million actors are out of work and it’s a perilous time for the arts. It feels so good to really laugh out loud at some of the silly shenanigans as Dolly and her family save the essence of panto and rescue the jokes from the despicable Von Bad Apple and his German accent. The sketch featuring a conversation using the names of famous people and their photographs throughout is inspired and great fun to watch.

Billy, played by internet dancing sensation Joe Tracini, who has 40m Twitter followers, plays his ukulele called Steve and sings a wonderful song about the challenging year. At the end Billy unexpectedly teaches us some dance moves. Great.

If you’re in need of a good laugh and crave some decent family entertainment, you’ve got to watch this.

On until January 3, 2021

Star rating

4 gold stars

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