Last night I saw my first professional panto for at least thirty years and two of my children saw their first ever. I apologise for gushing and telling seasoned panto watchers things they already know, but we were blown away by Cinderella at the Bristol Hippodrome.
Being very honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve got used to enjoying things through my children’s eyes and with that being most of the pleasure, and I kind of expected that to be the case again here. I didn’t expect to laugh raucously, shout all the usual panto phrases with huge gusto and I certainly didn’t expect to be moved to tears and gasp with astonishment in my own right. I did all of those and thoroughly enjoyed the show.
Happily, I can report that Anna, 11, Noah, 8, and Sennen, 6, all felt just the same. It’s hard to top Shetland ponies on stage and they all declared the finale of act one to be the very best bit, but it was a joy to see them enjoying the wordy humour for which pantos are so known and to shout along with them.
Cinderalla’s headline stars are Jayne Torville and Christopher Dean of Bolero and later Dancing on Ice fame. I couldn’t quite imagine how they would work as fairy godparents, but they were fantastic. Beautiful skating, good enough acting to carry them through, well-placed comic references to Bolero and a beautifully judged and technically dazzling set piece towards the end. When you’ve seen them skate as much as I had, or if you are a child and really don’t know much about 80’s ice dance at all, you might wonder how ‘that Bolero’ could be fresh, interesting and exciting. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
Of course, the headliners don’t make a show by themselves. We all loved Buttons, the Kiwi comic Jarred Christmas, who used his background in stand up to really work the audience within the overall story. He was part of a team of fabulous comic actors.
The ugly sisters, Saffron and Wasabi, were visually spectacular and had superb timing and delivery. Dandini was deliciously camp and almost out-charmed the Prince.
Were pantos that full of inuendo when I was small? Oh yes, I think they probably were. It’s just that, done right, as with me and my friend who came with us, the adults gasp and turn to each other, wondering “Did they really say that?” whilst it sails right over the heads of the little ones.
Baron Hardup was a perfect straight guy to the slapstick and pun-filled lines delivered deftly by the more comic characters.
When you add in a gorgeous Cinders and handsome prince, a team of very able grown up dancers (some on skates) and a very talented group of young dancers, you’d have to be a very hardened cynic not to enjoy your evening. Happily, I can report that none of my party is!
As a little post script, Anna is currently an avid autograph hunter. I chose last night to give the children a taste of waiting by the stage door. How gracious and kind were those actors? They must have been exhausted from the demands of the show but still smiled, gave autographs and there was a genuine, non-showy engagement with their excited newest fans. Thank you to them all.
Cinderella runs at the Bristol Hippodrome until 8 January 2017