Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Dick Whittington

iverfront/Hiss and Boo , The Riverfront, Newport , December-05-14
Dick Whittington by iverfront/Hiss and Boo Come what may, with its beginnings over 2000 years ago Christmas is and I am sure will always remain a magic time, especially for young children and they were there last night in great numbers gobbling up the bright, sparkling magic that was this year’s very colourful pantomime at Newport’s Riverfront Theatre, which also has a touch of magic of its own all the year round.

"Turn again Whittington, Lord Mayor of London you will be". The bells of Bow Church ring out. The delightful Fairy Bowbells of Nerine Skinner gets us all off to a great start with a glistening smile that immediately captures both old and young. She carries a magic wand but she is the total epitome of fairyland herself. What is so remarkable about Skinner’s performance is the energy. She should be on the wing for Wales. She punches out her songs and dances with great zest with the ensemble from the opening moment of the show to the last. A real joy to watch.

As everyone is in this fast moving show that totally captivates its young audience as it takes them on a journey from Newport to London, to Morocco and back to London. The picture book colours of the setting give us all a warm glow so when he enters, King Rat, with a very robust performance from Richard Elis, isn’t all that scary, though the booing he gets did sound as if it might raise the roof right off the theatre! He even takes a break from being bad and gives us a stand up routine of very bad jokes that has the kids hooting. At times it was a very boisterous show with “Oh yes he is” and other Panto favorites all being given full voice.

Gareth Tempest gives us a real tall dark and handsome, thigh-slapping hero. Ten years ago Tempest was a child in the chorus of the Riverfront’s first pantomime, which was also Dick Whittington and now he returns as its star. But no one is the star of this show. It is a great ensemble piece with everyone working with gusto to give the kids the best possible time. The jolly tuneful music performed by just two men, Lee Freeman and Dean Hilborne sounds like there is a really big band in the pit and they make sure that everything keeps moving jollily along.

Alderman Fitzwarren, Alice’s dad is usually a small background role in the story but Michael Onslow is in there dancing and singing like a good ‘un. He also does a good comedy custard pie routine as the sidekick of his cook Sarah. His daughter, Alice the Heroine of the piece is again another engaging performance from Elin Llwyd, her singing with eventual husband almost brings a tear to the eye.

I guess the real hero of the story is Tommy the cat who rids, it seems practically the whole world, well at least London and Morocco and maybe Newport of the deadly rats. Emma Goodwin is an engaging pussy cat and she dances with great acrobatic verve as she saves the day. There’s a group of children
who dance with great energy and commitment making a very dirty and rude collection of rats. The grown-up ensemble members, Joshua Glavin, Alexander Day, Chrissie Perkins and Ioannou Kamenou all perform with a strength that shows they are clearly ready to tackle bigger roles, they give us some real characters and help to keep things bubbling along.

No panto is complete without its dame, this is Lee Mengo’s seventh appearance in the part at The Riverfront and he just grows and grows. His Sarah the cook is an operatic diva starting us off with Carmen and finishing up with the Marriage of Figaro. Always a sparkle in his eye, especially with his ‘innocent’ innuendos, his larger than life character not only fills the stage but the whole of the auditorium, where it is clear that everyone, the mums and dads as well as the kids are all having a fantastic time.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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