The Emperor’s New Clothes
Panto fans will get an early dose of Christmas cheer this month with the CUADC/ Footlights team getting in early with their festive show: The Emperor’s New Clothes. Written, produced and performed by the cream of the crop of Cambridge University’s bright young things, the ADC panto is a little more offbeat than your usual family show.
This year’s production follows in the tradition of tackling less traditional fairy tales (past pantos have included Theseus and the Minotaur, The Snow Queen and Treasure Island), and this year they take us to the streets of medieval England where Emperor Wilf is looking to impress his newly-inherited kingdom with the most perfect, showstopping outfit, like, ever. With the Yuletide feast approaching, Wilf spots an advert for the perfect get-up – or so he thinks…
Expect naughty puns, witty wordplay, silly songs and fabulous costumes from this fashion-tastic fable, restyled like never before. Runs 26 November until 6 December at the ADC Theatre, 7.45pm. Tickets £9-£14.
Around the World in 80 Days
Stampeding elephants, runaway trains, dashing gentlemen and Indian princesses… New International Encounter (NIE) invite you all on a Christmas adventure of a lifetime as they stage Around the World in 80 Days. Taking place at Cambridge Junction, it’s promising music, excitement and BIG moustaches as it lands in town on 8 December.
“The idea of an epic journey around the world really worked for us, being an international theatre company,” says artistic director and performer Alex Byrne. “I really like the adventure and travel element of the story. We’re basing the set around a classic English look, then bursting out of that will come all sorts of different styles and feels. That late-Victorian opulence is lovely to play with, and that period in history is very interesting. It’s when the rest of the world opened up in many ways, so there’s something beautiful in that. Plus, who doesn’t love dressing up in great costumes?”
:: Read our review here ::
Taking us through the story – which is based on the book by Jules Verne, first published in 1873 – Alex explains: “Phileas Fogg is an enigmatic English gentleman who accepts a bet to travel around the world in 80 days. He sets off with his French manservant and they head around the world going east, through Egypt, India, Japan and across the Pacific to San Francisco, across the States and back to London. It’s also a chase, as the police are after him for robbing the bank of England…
“Along the way he picks up various other travellers, including an Indian princess. So the story might have a romantic finale.”
NIE was last in town with the beautiful, big-hearted Hansel and Gretel, and once again they’ll be using live music, performed on stage by the actor-musicians. “Music plays a large part in telling the story, and describing each of the different places they visit, so we’ve been looking at instruments from around the world. Then there’s all the different means of transport, so we’ve got boats, trains and more… it should be a really exciting show.”
Runs 8 December until 4 January, at various times. See Junction website for times; tickets are £10-£14.
Christmas brings out the best in some people and the downright daft in others. This is certainly true of one familiar face who spends most of the year living quietly with his wife and daughter, except for six weeks in winter when he dresses up in tights, wigs and full make-up to entertain the Cambridge masses. This December, Matt Crosby returns as Dame for Cambridge Arts Theatre’s traditional annual pantomime, Aladdin.
“I’m really excited about this year’s show,” says Matt, who co-wrote the script along with the Arts Theatre’s Al Morley. “And the costumes are going to be really sublime too.” Telling us about Widow Twankey – surely the Lear of pantomime roles – Matt explains: “She’s looking to meet someone the old-fashioned way: through alcohol and poor judgement. She works in the laundry with her two sons, Aladdin and Wishee Washee. They’re a hard-working family, but Peking is in a bit of financial turmoil. Richard Earl is playing the emperor and Stephen Beckett’s back as the baddie. And we’ve got a genie who’s six foot something, so I don’t know how he fits in the lamp…”
This year will be Matt’s tenth at the Arts Panto. Starting in the Silly Billy role alongside Michael Fenton Stevens, he graduated to Dame three years ago and hasn’t looked back since. In fact, we hear he rather enjoys getting into a bra and bloomers every December. “I love the costumes, and I actually quite like wearing the female body,” he admits. “Last year, I’d quite happily sit, in between scenes, just in my little fleshy fat suit, quite comfortably. What a hideous sight!” he laughs.
With so many costume changes, Matt has his own wardrobe assistant to ensure swift transitions. “Some of the changes are so quick!” says Matt. “The costumes are really heavy. My wardrobe lady would give me a quick breather, then go ‘One, two, three!’, and do it as fast as possible so it wasn’t too traumatic.”
Recalling his first ever show, Matt says: “I remember the slosh scene had a rocking deck, and Mike and I going up and down… then afterwards, sitting in dressing room number five, rocking backwards and forwards. We had to take tablets for motion sickness. I thought, ‘I’ve got five and a half weeks of this, I don’t know if I can go through this every show!’. “That was my first year – I was thrown in right at the deep end. I didn’t have a clue – well, I still don’t. I’m flattered I’m still invited back, to be honest.”
You’ll have to wait until 4 December to find out exactly what’s in store, but Matt assures us there’ll be all the expected popular culture nods, songs and silliness. “It’s a family show so you’ve got to entertain everyone: mums, dads, grandparents and children. And it’s a university city, so you’ve got to pitch it right. Stephen Hawking comes to see us every year, which is amazing. He always enters halfway through, with his entourage, and you can always see him.”
If it’s good enough for the best mind in the world, well, that’s good enough for us.
Aladdin runs 4 December-11 January, see the Arts Theatre website for times and prices.
Start 2015 in magnificent style with a trip to the ballet. The brilliant Moscow City Ballet will be performing two of Tchaikovsky’s ‘big story’ ballets on 2, 3 and 4 January at Cambridge Corn Exchange.
One of the most respected classical companies in the world, Moscow City Ballet is made up of gifted young dancers accompanied by a sublime live orchestra. On 2 and 3 January, the Ballet will present the classic Christmas story of The Nutcracker, which features some of the composer’s best-loved scores, The Waltz of the Snowflakes and Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. The story whisks audiences away into a land of magic and sweets, where the brave Nutcracker must do battle with the fearsome Mouse King. This production, which has already gathered rave reviews, is directed by Smirnov-Govolanov and stirs in contemporary choreography to create a fresh interpretation of this family favourite. Show times are 2.30pm and 7.30pm; tickets £27.50-£37.50 (£17.50 under 16s).
Then, on 4 January, Shakespeare’s beautiful tragedy Romeo & Juliet is brought to life through music and dance in a powerful production also by Smirnov-Govolanov. Watch the story of two star-crossed lovers play out against Sergei Prokofiev’s dramatic score, while beautiful costumes and a sophisticated set depict the lavishness of Renaissance Verona. Takes place at 5pm, prices as above, bookable from the Corn Exchange website.