November 19, 2021-January 15, 2022; 2hr 30min
After a gap of two years, is this pantomime a beauty or a beast?
It has all the key ingredients of good panto: corny jokes, a well written, clever script, some innuendo, a few off-script asides and plenty of audience participation – though less running through the audience thanks to Covid restrictions.
As usual there is a balance of action and music. I love the way the cast stops acting, picks up an instrument and sings or plays, cleverly weaving songs into the action; I didn't even mind getting slightly wet from the obligatory super-soakers – though I was quite pleased to be far enough back to avoid suggestive comments from the dame. For those who tire of panto antics, the music is enough to sustain interest and make this an enjoyable evening for all.
There are some flat moments in this production, the emphasis of which is on retelling the familiar story as well as entertaining. But above all this is rattling good entertainment that brings a smile to every face throughout.
The theatre hasn't rested on its laurels. There are some familiar, veteran players in Tamara Harvey's production – Phylip Harries (the dame) and Daniel Lloyd among them – who are excellent and at times carry the show. There are also newer faces, including Izzy Neish and Maya Manuel, who energise the whole company into offering a thoroughly engaging, lively and interactive performance.
As the show progresses the audience warms to the evening so much that the standing ovation is spontaneous and heartfelt, a fitting finale to a fun night. The sense of teamwork and community when I saw it was enhanced by the way the cast sang Happy Birthday to lighting designer Johanna Town – a member of the otherwise largely unsung but important background team.
This is an important production for Theatr Clwyd. The theatre has a long tradition of alternative, high quality pantomime it can't afford to let slip. In recent years, the company has strengthened its community presence even during lockdown and has gained an even greater popular following.
Parts of the theatre will close in January for a long-overdue refurbishment, which will further disrupt its itinerary. Hopefully there will be no hiatus as a result, and Theatr Clwyd will continue to produce meaningful, community-orientated, original and varied theatre during the period of change.
If this pantomime is anything to go by, that hope is likely to be realised.
More information and tickets here