It's an ill wind. The misfortune of Swindon's Wyvern Theatre, where asbestos in the auditorium means it is dark for the pantomime season and several months beyond, is putting bums on seats at several rival West Country venues - none more so than the Theatre Royal in Bath.
Here, just 30 miles further down the M4, director/comedian Chris Harris is already well established as pantomime head cook and bottle-washer, this time displaying his infectious sense of fun alongside the talents of another sturdy professional in Ruth Madoc. Together they bring a potent mix of joie de vivre and invaluable experience to some pretty familiar proceedings, even if Harris's Buttons does suggest collusion with Our Leader's insistence that, even in the below stairs service industries, we all must work to a greater age.
Harris is best known of course, for giving us his Grand Dame. Those outrageous costumes and hilarious nudges and winks are missed this time round, although in their place is the compensation of such classic pantomime routines as the balloon dance. Despite being slightly under used, Madoc's personality is big enough to support her claim that she is the only fairy in the village, while Mark Buffery, another Bath stalwart, teams with television presenter Jon Monie as spectacularly ugly Ugly Sisters, strong on audience participation. Gillian Budd's West End musical background shines through in the title role and Laura Darkins and Venetia Grivas are, quite literally, in splendid shape as Prince Charming and Dandini.