A funny Norfolk Christmas

PUBLISHED: 10:37 20 November 2020

Richard Gautlett in Panto in a Pickle   Picture: Max Hilton

Richard Gautlett in Panto in a Pickle Picture: Max Hilton

© Norwich Theatre

We have asked some of the funniest folk in Norfolk to help make your Christmas merry and mirthful. Panto dames, stand-up comics and writers have ridden, capered and quipped to the rescue with everything from cracker jokes to laughs from Christmases past.

Rapunzel and the Wicked Sorceress in Rapunzel - The Lockdown Pantomime  Picture Richard BatsonRapunzel and the Wicked Sorceress in Rapunzel - The Lockdown Pantomime Picture Richard Batson

Writer, performer and explorer Tim FitzHigham has taken Clement C Moore’s Christmas classic and updated it for corona times, beginning:

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

They wanted to leave the house but chances were rare

Olly Day hosts Strictly Christmas at the Pavilion Theatre on Cromer PierOlly Day hosts Strictly Christmas at the Pavilion Theatre on Cromer Pier

And all worried if restrictions meant St. Nick wouldn’t be there;

The children were socially distant in their beds;

While covid masked fairies danced in their heads;

And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,

Kept at two metres for a long winter’s nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.

At the window to my eyes did appear,

A miniature sleigh and five tiny rein-deer,

‘We’ve had to loose three’ the driver said quick

‘With me and these five - we’re a bubble of six’.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

St Nick whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!

I never much liked Cupid! Donner and Blitzen!’

Tim Fitzhigham tells the true story of his death-defying 200-mile journey across the Channel, around the coast and up the Thames in an antique bath in the frightening funny All At Sea.

Writer, entertainer and wit Keith Skipper brings Christmas cheer with some lesser known carols and a quiz.

“I think I may have invented an early form of social distancing by mistake during Christmas carol-singing rounds. A compulsion to give old favourites a fresh coast of local paint invariably left me isolated from the rest as I tuned into a few home-grown compositions,” he said. Keith’s Norfolk carols include Good King Wendling Last Looked Out, O Come Alby Faithful, Hark, the Hempnall Angels Sing, As With Gladness Men of Aldborough, We Three King of Ovington Are, Thirsty Noel and God Arrest These Marry Gentlemen.

“Another source of homely fun was my Christmas quiz for family, friends and anyone else who liked to unravel Norfolk locations from seasonal clues,” he said.

1. What shall I do with these awful socks?

2. Now those elves are on thin ice …

3. What’s she doing with those Christmas trees?

4. I’ve bought a special present for my hungry pet badger.

5. Holy crackers!

Answers below.

Keith Skipper’s latest book The Norfolk Almanac has a cheery local souvenir for every day of the year. harnserpress.co.uk

Richard Gauntlett will be appearing in Panto in a Pickle at Norwich Theatre Royal.

“Many years ago, during a production of Cinderella, my five-year-old daughter Hannah decided that this was the year to brave an audience and come up on stage. Four children were guided on to the stage with Hannah at the end. I asked the other children questions about Christmas and who they were with and finally got to Hannah.

‘Who have you come with today?’

‘Mummy and my two brothers. Daddy is at work.’

‘Have you enjoyed the pantomime?’

‘Mostly.’

I didn’t push it – she was getting laughs!

Next came a song about a bird with a very long name. Each child had to copy a line that I sang. I hadn’t realised that Hannah had not only heard me rehearsing the song at home but learned it. When the microphone arrived she sang: ‘It’s a kliney-kliney-feegle-fugle-ushen-a-backing-a-beagle-bugle-air-ack-a-splitting-uh-loud-and-blooming bird.’ She brought the house down!

We would have got away with it if she hadn’t called back ‘Thanks Dad!’”

The three festive shows in Norwich Theatre Royal’s A Right Royal Christmas from December 16-24 are Panto in a Pickle! A Circus Carol with Lost in Translation Circus, and Karl Minns with She Go Does It Under The Christmas Tree...With Friends. norwichtheatre.org

You may also want to watch:

Olly Day, hosts Strictly Christmas in Cromer.

“I think the thing I shall miss the most this year, because of social distancing rules, is meeting and chatting with everyone after the show. I remember last year after a matinee performance, a dear lady, in her 80s grabbed me and said in a soft Norfolk accent, ‘Olly I can’t tell you how much we’ve enjoyed the show, I haven’t laughed so much since my husband died!’ I knew exactly what she meant.”

Strictly Christmas at the Pavilion Theatre, Cromer Pier runs from December 4 to January 1. cromerpier.co.uk

Ben Langley, who will be appearing in the Christmas Spectacular at the Hippodrome Circus in Great Yarmouth, penned a pandemic poem, beginning with lockdown, quarantine and shielding before breaking into:

“It’s Christmas! Yes Christmas!

Something Boris won’t displace.

We’re good in Norfolk with Hands, Face and Space.

To hope and to purpose let’s raise a glass

And to Father Christmas wearing a mask

Who, by the way, is drinking Merlot

Celebrating the Elves coming back off furlough

And good old Norfolk is his first destination.

Which will mark the end of his North Pole Ice ‘olation!”

See Ben Langley in the Christmas Spectacular at The Hippodrome Circus from 5th December 2020 - 10th January 2021. hippodromecircus.co.uk

It’s the perfect panto for the pandemic – the tale of a girl who cannot leave her home and has really long hair. The cast of Rapunzel – The Lockdown Pantomime, have put together some festive fun.

Emma Riches, who plays “locks-down” leading role, Rapunzel: “If you were in Rapunzel’s tower during the night, what would be the furthest thing that you could see? The curtains . . . she keeps them closed at night!”

Rapunzel writer and director Nick Earnshaw recalls some favourite gags from previous pantos.

“I went on a holiday once” “Half board?” “No, I was totally bored.”

“I’ve been looking everywhere for the pirate with one eye.” “Try looking with both eyes, you’re bound to find him.”

Rapunzel – The Lockdown Panto is at St George’s Theatre, Great Yarmouth, December 15-19 and Sheringham Little Theatre December 22-24, and on December 16 a performance will be beamed into hundreds of local schools. sheringhamlittletheatre.com stgeorgestheatre.com

Entertainer Nigel Syer says he owes his career to childhood Christmases when it was a family tradition to take turns telling a joke. One Christmas his uncle Ken was late and his dad told the joke that he knew Ken would tell with the punchline: “My word that’s an incredible piece of equipment you have there.”

“First time round it was mildly amusing. Second time round, everyone was crying with laughter. I’m guessing that is why in a set of Christmas crackers you always get the same joke at least twice.”

Nigel Syer will be entertaining guests after Christmas lunch at The Hotel Victoria, Lowestoft. nigelboy.co.uk

And will there be a panto at Diss Corn Hall this year? Producer, writer and director Tom Beard can answer that.

“What of panto at Diss Corn Hall?

No giant beanstalk? No prince’s ball?

No lamps to rub? No thighs to slap?

No corpsing at custard pie mishap?

No twirlies doing impossibly high kicks

To the latest ditty from Little Mix?

No five minute calls, no absentee juves

No act two delays due to toilet queues

So what can the audience do in this strange time?

Enter stage left…the Magic of Pantomime!”

The Magic of Panto runs at Diss Corn Hall from December 19-24. thecornhall.co.uk

Keith Skipper’s Christmas quiz answers: 1 Wereham. 2 Skeyton. 3 Trimingham. 4 Brockdish. 6 Pulham St Mary.

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