Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Sincere, endearing and delightful


The Riverfront in Association with Hiss and Boo , The Riverfront Newport , January 8, 2007
Cinderella by The Riverfront in Association with Hiss and Boo This is my third Panto this season, again here at the Riverfront’s second pantomime the eager atmosphere of anticipation and excitement, the waving light sticks and the rattling of sweet papers is as strong and as palpable as ever. The other two were in ‘big’ places; The New Theatre Cardiff and The Theatre Royal Nottingham. Although all three were very traditional in form they each had their own individual characteristics. In Newport it was the warmth of the characters and the very endearing nature of the telling of its story that entranced the audience, both young and old.

What was so noticeable about this Cinderella was that due to the fact that the cast contained more then the usual number of really good actors as opposed to Variety Artist and Celebrities the characters were much more clearly drawn and believable. Richard Bardsley’s Baron Hardup was a real person who captivated the audience and gained its strong sympathy for his predicament. And what a predicament, with a terribly bossy wife, the wicked stepmother of the story, given a very strong and enormously boo-able performance by Julie Hobbs. Ooh we did hate her! He also had three daughters, two of them very ugly and scheming, BAFTA winner Brian Hibbard more than ably assisted by Lee Mengo were Germolina and Valderma. Beneath thier bright wigs and extraordinary costumes the minds of two very skilful actors were moving things along at a whacking pace and uproariously interacting with the audience and with everyone else on the stage. They personified the determination within the production to ensure that everyone had a really good time.

The baron’s third daughter was a joy to him and Jacquelyn Kent’s Cinders was both a great joy to watch and to listen to. She may have been a very vulnerable and put upon character but she could dance and sing and move with great verve and fun, as well as again being a very believable person drawing us all into the highs and the lows of her fate.

Fairy Godmother Isla St Clair had magic on her side to help the goodies overcome the distractions of the baddies. She welcomed us into the fairy-tale world and immediately sent her glittering magic to fill the auditorium. In traditional, endearing rhyming couplets she introduces the main character in the story to us and magics herself off stage to be ready when the going gets too tough for Cinders and her boyfriend and for all of us in the audience, willing them on to a happy ending.

The kids in the audience certainly love Barnaby’s Buttons, with his ever-growing gold ish in the corner of the stage helping us to greet him at every entrance. Whilst he may not have had the polished communication skills of the actors it did not matter, the Newport kids were always one jump ahead of him and were in stitches at his jokes long before he had finished them. He did prove himself to be a very fine physical entertainer in the second half of the show.

Ben Tyreman’s elegant Dandini was determined to see everything went well for his boss the prince. Alan Bowles’ prince was extremely charming, he also possessed a very fine singing voice and his duets with Cinderella were one of the many very fine highlights of this great show.

It looked magnificent with great costumes and scenery. The young dancers, presumably from a local dancing school, were absolutely superb, odd that they received no acknowledgement in the programme. The hissing and booing, the rapport between artists on stage and the young audience on the other side of the footlights are a major part of the excitement of pantomime. Despite the production needing a bit more focus on this, Cinderella at The Riverfront was, for me, the most sincere, endearing and delightful Christmas show in South East Wales.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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