Sheffield City hall panto the 'antidote we all need to a tough year'

This is the best thing about Christmas in Sheffield, an avid admirer of the City Hall panto declared before the curtain even went up.

Wednesday, 29th December 2021, 2:41 pm

After a year away, it wasn’t clear who was more desperate for the gags, the puns, the boos, the singing and the shouting – members of Manor Operatic Society on the stage or the audience who were loudly overjoyed to be back. Hopes were high and, of course, the cast didn’t let anybody down one jot despite an onslaught of things going against them in the run up to Monday’s opening night.

How do you safely protect members of a large cast? How many stand-ins will be needed during the long run? How on earth do the performers find the energy, time and talent to keep a full venue gripped from start to finish, remembering they also have demanding jobs away from the society?

It has been a tough year for all but this is the Steel City antidote we all need.

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The cast of Manor Operatic pantomime Snow White on stage at Sheffield City Hall

The infamous baking scene is alive and kicking (with gloves), the jokes are pointedly at Sheffield’s expense (as usual), the government comes out as a laughing stock (not too hard to do this year) and neither football club is let off lightly (well, they have asked for it). The bucket game was the only element to fall victim to Covid regulations but the fun and frolics more than made up for it.

If you could bottle and take home some of Robert Spink’s cutting wit as the dame, we’d all find any impending lockdown far easy.

There is nothing more heart-warming than seeing three or four generations of Sheffield families clutching their sides together or singing along to Tiddly Winky Woo. It is that magic which stopped directors Richard Bradford and Linda Kelly giving up when they hit endless obstacles. It is that same passion for creating joyous memories which made the whole cast rise to a challenge quite unlike any other, and emerge victorious.

This wasn’t a case of making a plan b for every element, they needed a plan x, y and z in many cases as the pandemic continued.

Comic duo Robert Spink as the Dame. Nurse Tickles, and James Smith (Muddles) in Manor Operatic pantomime Snow White at Sheffield City Hall

The group has also been rocked by personal tragedy with the recent loss of three of Manor Operatics guiding lights, Margaret Kelly, Richard Foster and Maria Platts.

I’ve no idea how on earth they pull together such fantastic shows but please don’t stop. Snow White is on until January 9.