I’ve been lucky enough to review the annual Rock’n’Roll panto for quite a few years. This year’s production had a bit of a reset from the usual staging as it is performed in the theatre’s Big Top while the main theatre is redeveloped. The large thrust stage, with the audience on three sides, took a bit of settling into but worked well for audience engagement.
As soon as Phylip Harries as Nurse Nellie launched onto the stage on a pink elephant, I knew we were in good hands. Harries really is a national treasure, captivating the audience with his hilarious delivery, warm humour and cracking musicianship. Not to mention the costumes. Every year I think the costume department can’t get better, and every year they do. I won’t spoil the surprise by describing Nurse Nellie’s gowns – suffice to say they are spectacular.
I also really loved the thoughtfully individual costumes of the three fairies Calon (Georgina White), Cwtch (Caitlin Lavagna) and Cariad (Ai Kumar) and the eye-catching clothes of villain Mordecai (Ben Locke) and his sidekicks Snarl and Fang.
The fairies’ performances were fantastic, particularly so Caitlin Lavagna. The winner of Best Villain in the 2023 UK Pantomime Awards, Ben Locke didn’t disappoint, bringing his unique camp baddie energy to the Mordecai role. I loved his local insults, calling us ‘Moldy Mingers’ among other things.
As always, Johanna Town did a fab job of the lighting while Tayo Akinbode’s musical direction was impeccable. The medley of music ranged from hits by AC/DC, to Destiny’s Child, to Tina Turner, Rolling Stones, Coldplay and two Kate Bush numbers. The vocalists are all amazing, but standouts for me were Ben Locke’s impressive falsetto, Celia Cruwys-Finnigan and Dan Bottomley’s duet and the beautiful harmonies between powerful singers Cwtch, Cariad and Calon.
All of the cast members also play several instruments to a very high standard and are rarely off stage, which deservedly gives the Rock’n’Roll panto its unique advantage.
While this is always the best panto for miles around, I had some slight niggles, including it being a little too loud. Though I snicker at the odd fart joke, at one point the scatological humour tipped into a few poo jokes too many. I love panto’s double entendre, but I did feel that one scene featuring the very sporting audience member Nathan sailed a bit too close to the wind as the lines only worked on the smut level, there was no innocent level. Could be tricky if you have the sort of young child who asks awkward questions.
Although panto by its nature has to be formulaic to a point, it was refreshing to find that this year’s panto didn’t end in a double wedding, with the emphasis firmly off the traditional happy ending, and on more of a modern one.
You can’t ask for a better night’s light entertainment than the Theatr Clwyd Rock’n’Roll panto, and this year was no exception. Oh yes it is behind me for another year, but you still have time to get your tickets.
Sleeping Beauty The Rock’n’Roll Panto is at Theatr Clwyd until January 6. Tickets available here.
Photo credit: Andrew AB Photography