Writer: Eric Potts
Director: Anthony Houghton
Reviewer: Kris Hallett
Strawberries and cream at Wimbledon. Rule Britannia at The Last Night Of The Proms. The English football team disappointing at a major football tournament. Yelling he’s behind you in a full theatre over the Christmas season. Some things are quintessentially British and no other theatre ecology in the world embraces the silliness of panto quite like we do here in the UK.
Tradition is partly why theatres like the Bristol Hippodrome are constantly heaving over the festive season. Like a juggernaut musical you know exactly what you’re getting before entering the auditorium. First Family Entertainment’s formula of rotating casts, sets and scripts over the country each year mean they can achieve maximum polish in minimum time scales. Although this leads inevitability into the formulaic, there is something comforting about coming back year after year for a seasonal treat.
There is plenty of sparkle on show in this Cinderella, each set shimmers with glitter. No expense has been spared, the costumes are beautiful, sets extravagant, cute shire ponies are used to take Cinderella to the ball. There is plenty of bang for your buck here. And there is plenty of bang in Rhiannon Chesterman’s vocal powerhouse of a Cinderella. It’s rare to have a principal girl with a belt on her but refreshingly, vocally, her Cinders dominated the show.
Last week Sally Cookson dug into the darker elements of this tale with her enchanting version at the Tobacco Factory Theatres, but this is a pantomime with no desire to delve into the darker elements. Even the ugly sister duo of Tim Hudson and Charles Brunton are lovable hags desperate for WAG status rather than machete-wielding despots ready to mutilate for their crown.
The drawing point this year is undoubtedly the pairing of Torvil and Dean as the fairy godparents. Christopher Dean especially throws himself into the spirit of the thing, throwing out a number of ‘Brizzle’ sayings to try to fit in with the locals. Let’s be fair, they haven’t been cast for their acting ability but they provide a different thrust to the evening, the constant tease of them performing their Olympic gold winning routine Boléro finally taking flight right at the end of the evening with a breath-taking display that throws in a few surprises along the way.
For my money with such a male dominated principal cast it would be nice to revert back to a good old-fashioned female principal boy and unusually for panto, it could almost afford to draw breath and take its time a little bit, Anthony Houghton’s production takes it at such a clap that we’re done and dusted in little over two and a quarter hours.
Comedian Jarred Christmas steps into the breach left by the departure of Andy Ford and gives a performance that suggests he could be a new dynasty of the Hippodrome if he’s prepared to stay around. It’s Samuel Holmes who takes the plaudits though with a Dandini with his tongue firmly in cheek, he is reminiscent of a young Julian Clary in the role and consequently fits it to a tee. He is the embodiment of what panto is, a cheeky, droll and innuendo-laden delight, something that this production nails in spades.
Runs until 8 January 2017 | Image: Dave Betts