Warming hearts and bringing Christmas cheer, Hiss and Boo return to Newport once again for the panto season. This time, the subject for the festive offering is Cinderella and the creative team manage to find plenty of inspiration for some fresh humour and original dance routines in this familiar fairy tale.
In this version, the wicked stepmother is a Russian Countess whose rather unfortunate surname is Grimallova (geddit?). It is this character, brilliantly played by Julia Nagle, that is arguably the best thing about the pantomime. With her over-the-top accent, Nagle is able to draw vociferous catcalls and hearty laughter from the audience in equal measure. Her promotion of the two ‘ugly sisters’ Gladys and Glenys Grimallova, played with gusto by Nic Gibney and Liam Tobin, and her evil treatment of Cinderella is ‘text book’ panto villain.
Returning once again to Newport for the Christmas Panto is Richard Elis who will be familiar to many readers from his numerous roles on S4C dramas such as Gwaith Cartref and 35 Diwrnod. Playing the role of Buttons, Richard is never short of a cheesy joke or a call-to-arms for the audience. (sample joke – How do you make cheese and toast in the jungle? Put it under the gorilla.’ In many ways, he is the glue that holds the story together and his joviality and accent is infectious. I’m pretty sure he also had a big hand during rehearsals on ensuring that the audience greeted his every arrival on stage with a “Shwmae Buttons!” Chwarae teg.
His chemistry with Elin Llwyd, who plays Cinderella, is tangible. It’s no surprise when they have worked together so often on stage and screen. Llwyd, also a regular of the Riverfront panto, brings the vocal talents and innocent charm that regular audience members will be familiar with. Her big voice more than fills the wonderful setting of the Riverfront’s main auditorium on a range of modern pop songs adapted to fit in with the narrative of the pantomime. The version of Adele’s Rolling in the Deep, with the Phillippa Hogg (Gwenda the Guardian Angel) providing sumptuous backing vocals, perhaps works best out of all the many such modern pop songs slotted into the production.
Panto at the Riverfront would not be complete without a good sing-song at the end and this time the audience are, quite randomly, invited to join in with a rousing rendition of Nellie the Elephant with Elis cast as the conductor. It heralds a fun, bizarre and loud conclusion to the show, which is rather befitting. Once again, the Riverfront panto delivers a terrific evening of entertainment for all the family.
Cinderella plays at the Riverfront Theatre in Newport until January 2