Watching a pantomime has become a bit of a family tradition at Christmas. It’s a real family event, and definitely adds to the magic at this time of year. We were invited to review Mooky Doolittle at the Blackpool Tower Circus.
Blackpool on an afternoon in November isn’t just cold. It’s bitterly cold – pretty much like I imagine Norway to be like. The wind blows through the streets with flecks of sleet whipping into your face. The cold gets into every single space, and sometimes the wind buffets you along as you go. This afternoon was no exception.
However, once you’re in the Blackpool Tower Circus, the atmosphere and setting couldn’t be warmer. The venue itself is beautiful – a proper circus ring, with lots of plush red velvet, a proper band, lighting and seating all around the circus ring.
We had a bit of difficulty actually finding some seats. The Tower circus does not allocate seating, so it’s a bit of a free-for-all. There were several large groups of visitors, and the ushers were struggling to sit them all together. We eventually managed to find 3 seats by asking people to move up, and Tim sat on his own while I sat with the boys closer to the stage. I have to say, if we’d been stuck up in the gallery, I’d have been really disappointed.
The story is loosely based on Doctor Doolittle. Mooky, the main character of Mooky Doolittle, is actually Mooky the clown, the circus director. Mooky Doolittle is a vet who can speak to animals but can’t really get along with people too well. Cue his mother (the pantomime dame) matchmaking him with the new vet practice secretary.
As with all good pantomimes, there’s a couple of nasty villains – Mr. Boo and Miss Hiss, who wants to wear the fur of endangered species. There’s a fairly tenuous plot involving some gorillas, a mammoth and a triceratops, but the real spectacle is in the circus where Mooky Doolittle tends the animals.
There aren’t any animals in the show (no animals have been used in the circus since 1990), except a few pantomime-horse style creatures. Instead, the gravity-defying acts of actobats and artists are the very best parts of the event.
From the couple who performed tricks on the high wire, to the tumbling troupe of acrobats, to the clown who wouldn’t stand up, both my boys were absolutely transfixed by the circus acts. There were a few moments when I had both my hands over my mouth, convinced that the trick wasn’t possible. But that’s the magic and thrill of the circus.
They both also loved the singing and dancing. There are several live songs in the show, and the dancers – both adults and children – are excellent. I have to say, the song and dance routines are always my favourite parts of a panto, and this did not disappoint.
Personally, I found the circus acts absolutely mesmerising. The skill and strength of the performers was incredible to watch.
With a decent 20 minute interval in the middle – when the queues for both the toilets and kiosk were crazy, but the kids could go into the ring and have their faces painted and try circus tricks – the show was an ideal pace. The 2.30pm show finished at around 5.00pm.
We battled back to the car through a freezing hailstorm, but the warm glow of the pantomime stayed with us for the rest of the day.
If you do go to see the performance, here’s a few things to bear in mind:
- Arrive early, especially if you’re a larger group. Don’t assume you will sit together.
- If you can, avoid sitting next to the band. The band are excellent, but most of the ‘pantomime’ act is facing the other way. We missed some of the action because of this.
- There are no baby change facilities in the circus itself (but there are toilets). You have to leave the circus part and go into the main Blackpool Tower part.
Tickets for Mooky Doolittle start from £5.95 and are available from The Blackpool Tower.
We were not allowed to take photos during the performance. The images I have used of the characters are from a previous year’s pantomime and were the only publicity images available at the time of writing.