Bradford 2000

At the Alhambra Theatre, Bradford. The review below is from Bradfords Telegraph and Argus.

Bobby Tommy
Bobby and Tommy as the Chinese Policemen

The first night of an Alhambra pantomime is Bradford’s equivalent of a West End opening. The theatre is never more alive than when it’s filled with a thousand screaming voices.

This year’s show gave them plenty to shout about. Traditional, northern pantos are what the Alhambra does best – and this show topped even last year’s blockbuster.

That can’t have been easy; the Chuckle Brothers are a hard act to follow, especially given the dearth of TV performers prepared to consider panto these days. However, in this year’s stars, Cannon and Ball, the Alhambra has got probably the best in the business. Not all the children out front knew who they were at first. Two and a half hours later they were old friends.

Their wonderful three-on-a-wall routine, performed on TV in the Eighties and originally conceived for Morecambe and Wise, is worth the admission price just by itself.

Khulvinder Ghir
Kulvinder Ghir, from TVs Goodness Gracious Me, as the Genie

The producers have clearly been at pains to assemble a ‘someone for everyone’ cast; Kulvinder Ghir from BBC2’s Goodness Gracious Me pops up as the genie, and Heartbeat’s Tricia Penrose is the princess.

But the most interesting casting is that of Sooty and Sweep, in their first pantomime appearances. Their puppeteer, Liana Bridges (pictured below), is an excellent comic foil for Tommy and Bobby.

The staging is lavish even by Alhambra standards, and there’s an effective flying carpet sequence towards the end. (Though, of course, there’s no fooling the kids. “Look – I just saw the strings.”)

The little Sunbeam dancers are as much a Bradford tradition as fish and chips on a Friday, and this year, looking as if butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths, they twirled their paper parasols to a cute arrangement of George Formby’s Chinese Laundry Blues.

Tricia Penrose
Tricia Penrose, from Heartbeat, as the Princess

It’s Cannon and Ball who make the show what it is, though. Bradford is their heartland; they and the audiences work in the same key. If the youngsters didn’t know them it was because they’re not on telly as much these days – but that’s telly’s loss. Northern comedy, sadly, is a lost art outside cities like ours.

David Behrens

Sooty, as himself