Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond

THE biggest little panto in the land.

The Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond is this year playing host to Rapunzel, a modern twist on a classic tale – and it's an absolute hoot.

Written by Nick O’Connor (who also plays the dame, Desiree Spud) this version of Rapunzel is packed full of traditional panto feel but with the unmistakable charm of a ‘Georgian’ production.

For those who are familiar with the Theatre Royal In Richmond, it was built in 1788 (oh yes it was!) and boasts the oldest scenery and one of the most unique theatre experiences in the world.

The audience is seated in a ‘pit’ and two levels of gallery, meaning no one is ever more than ten metres from the action. Intimate, engaging and for this panto, immersive, this is a wonderful way to enjoy the madness and mayhem of this brilliant, traditional pantomime.

The Northern Echo: Rapunzel is at Richmond's Georgian Theatre Royal until January 7

The front of house team, led by manager Paul Gilpin, will ensure you don’t get lost through the quirky and charming layout and the house bar, complete with a great selection of refreshments.

A panto tradition at the Georgian is of ‘knitted items’ and, in particular, the throwing of them at the cast at a specific part in the show. But fear not, you don’t have to bring your own. They're provided by fans of the theatre from all round the world. This year there were carrots all the way from Australia.

Why carrots? Well, some pantos have a laundrette, others have a pie stall and some even have a cake shop, but I’ll wager none have a vegetarian café diner.

This belongs to the aforementioned Nick O’Connor as Desiree Spud, who has found that her veg have rather unique properties, not that Ms Spud is too bothered for she is still lamenting the loss of her daughter Rapunzel (Rebecca Huish – as pretty a panto princess as there ever was) who was snatched by the twisted Mother Gothel (Paige Rochelle – deliciously wicked with just the best evil laugh).

Desiree’s friend Jimmy ‘Prince’ Charming (Marcus Jones – a loveable cheeky rogue with impeccable comic timing) is on the run from Detective Febreeze (Nigel Fyfe, who is making his debut at the Georgian Theatre Royal) but with his help, and by roping in the detective too, she intends to find and recover her daughter.

The Northern Echo: Rapunzel: Nick O'Connor with young company in Cafe Spud

Aided by her regular customers (who, for the night I went, were the super talented song and dance troupe extraordinaire of Dan, Lydia, Lucy, Martha and Tallulah-River) we are treated to the whole gamut of panto tropes, all delivered with masses of fun, plenty of laughs, death defying stunts, Tunnocks teacakes (!) and no small amount of Cher.

There are plenty of local references prompting knowing nods amongst the audience and, with everyone so close to the stage, there are lots of opportunities to really get involved.

Being so close to the stage also means you get to see the cast up close and what is very evident is just how much fun they're all having.

Song and dance, jokes and madcap routines are aplenty, all ending in a much deserved standing ovation.

Recommended reading:

To get more exclusive reviews from The Northern Echo for just £4 for four months, CLICK HERE for details of how to subscribe. 

If you want to step back in time for your festive fun then look no further than Rapunzel at the Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond – the biggest (and best) little panto in the land.

Rapunzel runs until Sunday, January 7, 2024. For dates, times and tickets visit georgiantheatreroyal.co.uk or call the box office on 01748 825252.

Andy Bramfitt