Home grown panto at Poole’s Lighthouse proves such a beautiful beast of a show

Chris Jarvis as Dame Betty Bonbon and Michelle Collins as the wicked Nightshade

Beauty and the Beast, Lighthouse, Poole

Magnifique! Fantastique! Ooh la la! Panto has returned to Lighthouse in Poole. This magical version of Beauty and the Beast has a decidedly Gallic flavour, is the first Lighthouse panto produced entirely in-house and it works like a dream.

Under the assured direction of its writer and star – Cbeebies legend Chris Jarvis – we find the time-honoured fairytale shuttling gloriously between Paris and Dorset.

With music and dance that starts with the La Marseillaise-tinged All You Need is Love and ends with a joyous can can, it is a marvellously family friendly production whic tells  of beautiful Belle (Alice Rose Fletcher) and the handsome Prince Valentin (Wade Lewin).  Brought together by Cupid (an excellent Tom Mann) they are cursed by evil enchantress Nightshade played with relish amid a hail of boos and hisses by soap star Michelle Collins.

With the couple banished to a haunted castle and Valentin turned into a hideous beast, it is down to Belle’s father, Marzipan (Ross Ericson), her sister Souffle (Georgia Grant-Anderson) and Chris Jarvis’s wonderful Dame, Betty Bonbons, to rescue them.

Their mission finds them battling with adversity, coping with cheerful chaos and, with  assistance from Cupid, helping true love finally  battle over evil. With the Prince and Belle freed from Nightshade’s curse, Betty Bonbon getting together with Marzipan and the sulphurously horrible Nightshade suddenly turned into a goody two shoes, there is nothing not to love.

It’s a great pantomime with a very strong cast and full of traditional slapstick and sass, including a riotous prop-laden 12 days of Christmas. There’s a contemporary twist or two and loads of topical humour and music. It’s a covid safe theatre too with state of the art air-con and strict protocols in place.

Chris Jarvis has been playing panto for nearly 30 years and it shows. He is a master of the craft and a brilliant children’s entertainer. Better still, after decades of playing Buttons, Simple Simon or Jack, with a variety of beanstalks, he is now in his 50s and has decided the time has finally come to play the Dame. Believe me the flamboyant Betty Bonbon  has been worth waiting for.

Beauty and the Beast runs at Lighthouse, Poole,  until New Year’s Eve. Do yourself a favour and snap up  tickets for your family.

Jeremy Miles

Genial giant Neil Fingleton would love to play a Bond villain


Neil Fingleton and Jenny Platt  preparing for panto in Dec 2009. Picture: Hattie Miles
Neil Fingleton and Jenny Platt ready for panto  in December  2009. Photograph: Hattie Miles

It must be difficult being physically different. People who don’t conform to generally accepted expectations of how one should look tend to have a rough ride through this uncompromising world of ours.

There are exceptions of course and one of them is a genial Geordie called Neil Fingleton. Officially recognised as  Britain’s tallest man, this cheery 33-year-old is seven foot seven and a half inches tall and weighs 25 stone and takes size 15 shoes. Continue reading “Genial giant Neil Fingleton would love to play a Bond villain”

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