Thanks to the New Theatre for providing us with review tickets for Cinderella in exchange for this review
A trip to the New Theatre’s panto is always one of our festive highlights, with the grown-ups enjoying it as much as the children. Last night’s press performance of Cinderella lived up to all our expectations from previous years with two hours of brilliant family entertainment. And even more special for those of us in the audience yesterday, it coincided with the New Theatre’s 113th birthday. We even got to sing happy birthday!
As you would expect in a show produced by world-leading panto producer Qdos, Cinderella is full of humour, big musical numbers, impressive sets and brilliantly extravagant costumes. Plus there’s plenty of audience participation with lots of booing and hissing, “oh no it isn’ts”, “she’s behind you”, and all the other bizarre stuff that defines the unique British tradition of panto.
Gok Wan heads the cast as the Fairy Gokmother, slowly descending onto the stage sat on a moon and creating plenty of magic throughout. There are the expected references to makeovers and catchphrases from the TV show that made him famous, How To Look Good Naked, but he’s actually a really charismatic performer. And he never takes himself too seriously, on more than one occasion finding himself laughing at the on-stage antics and having to recompose himself before continuing.
Cinderella is played by Teleri Hughes (a graduate of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama here in Cardiff), every bit the fairytale princess with a beautiful voice and demeanour. Rob Wilshaw as Prince Charming is exactly that – charming; and ably supported by Dale Evans as his right hand man Dandini.
Phil Butler plays Buttons, hopelessly in love with Cinders, while she sees him as just a friend. He was one of our favourite performers, so endearing and friendly, and with impressive juggling skills too.
It’s the ugly sisters who really get the audience going though. New Theatre panto regular Mike Doyle is Claudia and Ceri Dupree is Tess (my Strictly Come Dancing-loving kids thought this was hilarious). They make jokes at each other’s expense, not to mention the audience’s with plenty of local-based humour. They deliver some brilliant laugh out loud comedy skits, including an impressive tongue twister scene which had my eight year old bent over double laughing. The pair edge slightly into more risqué humour but always reign it in just enough so that it goes over the heads of the younger children, while the adults are left crying with laughter.
And they do all of this while wearing the most outrageously flamboyant of dresses and headwear, my favourite being Doyle’s flower pot dress. All kudos to Dupree for such incredible creativity in designing the dresses himself, and to Doyle and Dupree for managing so many costume changes throughout the two-hour performance.
The special effects are worth a mention too, with snow falling onto the auditorium, pyrotechnic explosions, and exploding streamers. Two real Shetland ponies pull Cinderella’s carriage, which if I’m honest left me feeling uncomfortable, but they didn’t seem to be under any distress.
The comedy rendition of 12 Days of Christmas near the end was brilliantly executed and had everyone laughing along. We’ve seen various renditions of this at different pantos over the years, but they always impress and have us laughing out loud.
We left the theatre feeling so happy and uplifted after a night of proper belly laughs and good old fashioned panto fun.
For an all-ages festive treat, and a bit of light-hearted escapism, you can’t beat it.
Cinderella is at the New Theatre Cardiff until Sunday 12 January. See the New Theatre website for more information.