Manchester Theatre Awards

> Independent informed reviews by the region’s most experienced critics

Pantomime FX

Anoraks of theatrical special effects and spectacle – I’m one – were delighted a few months ago to learn that pantomime supremos Qudos have taken over the franchise at Manchester Opera House.

If you’re into this sort of thing, after years of complaining that Manchester just doesn’t get the big stuff it’s exciting news that the fleets of pantechnicons are at last on their way for this Christmas season, and hopefully many more festive seasons to come.

No need now to make the annual pilgrimage to Birmingham Hippodrome to marvel at the 25ft gorilla; to ponder on just how the magic carpet flies out over the stalls to do a 360 degree turn; gasp at the monster shark and don those 3D glasses for a dizzying chase through the giant’s castle.

Exactly which spectacular effects from their extensive warehouses full of the world’s best will be on offer down Quay Street wasn’t revealed when creators The Twins FX were in Manchester the other day but as this is their first time in the city, they say they want to make it special.

“We’ve been working on ground breaking effects for Qudos pantomimes for 10 years now” says twin Paul, “and we’re involved in 30 pantomimes and Christmas shows altogether this year.

“In Manchester there’s definitely going to be some flying – and our flying is without wires, you can’t see how it’s done – and there’s a giant whale and…I’m not giving any more away.”

The stars of the show ostensibly are John Barrowman and The Krankies, a combination of talents first put together by producer Michael Harrison seven Christmas shows ago: “They’re a brilliant team,” he says, “and the whole package around them is lavish, that’s what we do.

“I also produce musicals – The Bodyguard and Funny Girl recently for example – and I know Manchester gets top class productions of those.

“But when people talk about pantomime it’s often thought of as very second rate. Not ours – they’re big, lavish and packed with special effects. We’re determined to make pantomime here into the sort of family treat you simply won’t ever forget.”

Alan Hulme