07 December 2022

Panto’s Gloriumptious Return


After a long three-year absence, the traditional panto is back at Teatru Manoel with Masquerade’s Ċikku and the Chocolate Panto. Written by Malcolm Galea and directed by anthony bezzina, the beloved Christmas show promises to deliver hours of side-splitting humour for all the family.

When theatres had to shut their doors during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was not only audiences who were deprived of live art and entertainment. For a long time, performing artists were unable to do their job in front of a live audience, and not many productions rely on a live audience as much as the Christmas pantomime does.

While everyone is looking forward to enjoying Christmas traditions once again, few are more excited about the return of the panto than Katherine Brown and Joseph Zammit. The actors will be playing the parts of the wicked Diva Devine and the enigmatic Willy Wonder respectively in Masquerade’s Ċikku and the Chocolate Panto, written by Malcolm Galea and directed by anthony bezzina.

Brown admits that celebrating the past two Christmases without the traditional show did not feel right. “Christmas without the panto didn’t feel like a proper Christmas!” she confesses. “I’m thrilled to be back and can’t tell you how much fun the whole panto experience is, both for the audience and especially for us working hard to bring it all together. It involves a lot of laughter and friendship and is really the perfect way to bring the spirit of Christmas to life.”

Zammit, who has already taken part in 12 pantos and whose first ever performance was in Masquerade’s 2008 panto at the Manoel, concurs. “It feels like a lifetime has passed since our last one, and I can’t wait to reacquaint myself with the familiar feeling the show brings,” he admits. “I keep coming back to the yearly panto because it is pure fun. Working every day on a ridiculously funny script is worth all the hard work.”

This year’s production, as the name suggests, is an homage to Roald Dahl, the master of children’s storytelling. Galea’s script tells the story of Ċikku, a poor young man who finds a golden ticket to Willy Wonder’s famous Chocolate Panto, only to find out that the show’s protagonist, Diva Devine, is a cruel witch who is out to get him and the other children in the audience. “Diva Devine is a hardworking actress and don’t believe anyone who says otherwise!” says Brown with a twinkle in her eye. “Anyway, Willy Wonder knows her true worth and would never go against her wishes. It just would not happen.”

Sharing the stage with Brown and Zammit are Galea himself as Dame Desserta, Marco Calleja as Mr Meany, Martina Galea Loffreda as Millie, and Nathaniel Attard as Ċikku, among others. Not being able to perform on stage for two consecutive festive seasons means that the actors are raring to go and are counting down the days till they welcome families back to our national theatre. “It feels so good to be working again. For me, Panto rehearsals are as much a preparation for Christmas as putting up the Christmas tree,” shares Brown. “The audience can expect a magical and fun experience. The energy and enthusiasm from everyone involved after two years away from it is really off the charts. We’re determined to come back with a bang!”

Zammit could not agree more and urges anyone who has never been to a Christmas panto to make Ċikku and the Chocolate Panto their first one. “Those who have made panto one of their Christmas traditions will be thrilled with this show,” he says. “Anyone who hasn’t yet - what are you waiting for? This is the perfect year to come and see what the experience is all about!”

Ċikku and the Chocolate Panto will be performed at Teatru Manoel between 23 December

2022 and 8 January 2023 with shows at 3pm and 8pm. Tickets are available online at www.teatrumanoel.mt, by telephone on 21246389 or on bookings@teatrumanoel.mt. For more information visit www.teatrumanoel.mt or www.masquerademalta.com

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