Letter from London: London’s best panto – oh yes it is!

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Each month, travel writer Jane Egginton, brings us her letter from London. This month it’s December and Christmas is coming… As things are warming up for the festive season, Jane makes a very enjoyable visit to that great British tradition, the pantomime

“A little magic can go a long, long way” sings the FG (Fairygodmother) in Hackney Empire’s Cinderella. This slick production with lots of good old-fashioned fun, up-to-the-minute quips and some belting musical numbers certainly provides plenty of sparkle and a little bit of magic on a dark midwinter London day. This show skilfully combines the best British theatrical traditions with knockabout comedy and musical spectacle.

I got a sneak preview before the rest of the press were allowed in and found myself grinning, giggling and roaring with laughter pretty much the whole way through this relentlessly-paced performance.  And I was not the only one. The whole audience ranging from toddlers and teenagers right through to pensioners lapped up this gag-a-minute show, eagerly joining in with the audience participation and swaying their arms and singing along with the songs.

The stars of the show were the sluttish Ugly Sisters described as ‘fastidious’ because one was ‘fast’ (and Jamaican) and the other ‘hideous’. They made their memorable entrance belting out the soul classic  Hold on, we’re coming’ from a (nicked) hot air balloon descending onto the stage. Their hilarious headgear included a cupcake, flowerpot, candelabra and giant cocktail. Cinderella and Prince Charming (who happened to be Indian) was a suitably pretty pair with the requisite pop star voices.

There were a few local references that only locals would get – jibes at upmarket Islington and a mad horse named Clapton after one of the city’s most diverse neighbourhoods. There were cracks too about the new Westfield shopping centre and the upcoming Olympics – both major East London features. But this was inclusive entertainment and the audience was from all over the world, with the United States and Australia particularly well represented.

“Our professor told us that pantomime is an important English tradition and this one was the best in London”, an American student told me in the interval. I was pleased to hear her teacher had done his homework. Hackney Empire’s pantomime has been hailed as the city’s best for several years now. And its high energy never flags – I saw it right at the end of the run last year in the dog days of January and the performers were just as impressive.

With tickets from £9.50 there’s no real reason not to go but I would suggest you book as soon as possible though the Hackney Empire as tickets go very quickly and it will sell out – it does every year.










London’s five best Christmas shows
After Hackney Empire’s panto, what are London’s five best Christmas Show?

Aladdin at the Greenwich Theatre
Cinderella at the Theatre Royal Stratford East
Jack and the Beanstalk at the Shaw Theatre

Sleeping Beauty at the Royal Opera House
The Snowman at The Peacock Theatre
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