The annual trip to the pantomime has always been the grandparent’s pre-Christmas treat and the real start of the festive season in our house. However I’ve never been present for this ritual as I seem to be perpetually at home watching a newborn, so this year I decided was my year.
Naturally I was more excited than my notoriously hard to please kids and I began to daydream about shouting “he’s behind you”, tiny pots of ice cream in the interval and being comedy fodder for a big bosomed man in a dress! I am pleased to report I was not disappointed.
This year the Riverfront theatre’s production of Jack and the Beanstalk was traditional panto at its best. Hugely colourful and musical with a healthy dollop of slapstick and some, attempts at, adult humour thrown in for good measure. From the evil giant’s henchmen Fleshcreep (Patrick Marlowe) to Simon Trott’s excellent pantomime dame, my desire for nostalgia was rewarded again and again. Set in the town of YbeudyynybryniaugerCasnewyddyngnghymru the show was unashamedly Welsh with special tribute paid to the newly revived Newport town centre.
My daughter Aurora was mesmerised by the colourful sets and squealed with delight as the beanstalk grew up into cloud land above. Gareth Tempest returned to the Riverfront stage this year as our reluctant hero Jack whose love interest Jill was far more eager to see the giant Ogmagog mashed and smashed, to stop him terrorising the village. His acting was wonderfully over the top and Jack was proclaimed to be my son Javier’s favourite character (even though Dylan the Daft played by Richard Elis had him giggling throughout).
Ogmagog, played by Jamie Anderson, was a definite highlight for me as it’s not often one gets to see a seven foot giant on stage. Although perhaps he shouldn’t have been he was a big hit with my two, making them cower in their seats during the performance and their most talked about character on the way home.
The female cast had a big opportunity this year to outshine their male counterparts and give the little girls in the audience some Frozen-esque girl power moments but instead fell a bit flat. Jill, perfectly played by Elin Llywd along with Fairy Liquid sang and danced beautifully but at the end of it all Jill still needed rescuing by her bumbling Jack and ended up marrying our hero at the end which was the only real deviation from the classic tale, in which we see Jack return home to his mother with the spoils of his adventures in Cloudland; the golden goose and magic harp.
For me Simon Nock who played Dame Tricia Trott was the standout performance of the night and had me and my husband giggling as he abused a poor man in the front row and gave us all the ‘oh no he isn’t’ we could have wished for. Between him and Dylan the Daft they carried the comedy and kept the pace going when at times it could have been a bit slow. In fact the only parts where attention seemed to wane amongst the little ones, and it really shouldn’t have, were the musical performances. There were slightly altered versions of pop music both old and new which could have had us all singing along, but didn’t. As an adult viewer I was left a little underwhelmed by the musical numbers and the attempts at adult humour that flew over the heads of the children and under the radar of the dozing grown-ups. Having said that my children and all the other little people in the audience were enthralled, screaming along when asked by Jack whether he was brave, and when Tricia Trott needed cheering up!
Upon leaving the auditorium my two tore off declaring me to be the evil Gogmagogg who was going to eat them, leaving Daddy to play flesh creep (a role he was not impressed with)! That kind of enjoyment is certainly infectious and I would wholeheartedly recommend the Riverfront’s latest offering for a great start to Christmas!
The Riverfront, Newport
Until January 3, 2016
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