Theatr Clwyd production
The Big Top, Theatr Clwyd
December 5, 2023-Jan 6, 2024
Theatr Clwyd has been quiet recently, but not silent, and after a bit of a labyrinthine walk to the temporary Big Top it's easy to see that Christmas in Raikes Lane will be as colourful and enjoyable as ever.
The eye-catching auditorium for the annual panto might be limited in scope compared to a standard stage, but is all it needs to be.
There's a sense of familiarity about the show, too. The first act feels like the umpteenth panto penned by its author, and while it grabs your attention, it's as if there's a stock set of routines and corny gags to get in - albeit with great aplomb and humour - before the interval, after which the real show begins.
There is a considerable contrast after the interval, which is more vital, even more edgy, as many givens of traditional panto are broken down. There's no actual Prince Charming, for instance; just the pantomime villain impersonating him. And thus Sleeping Beauty is awakened by "love's true kiss" from a best (female) friend, not a romantic prince. The fairies (Ai Kumar, Caitlin Lavagna and Georgina White) aren't princesses in flowing gown with wand, but quite feisty; and the Dame at one point becomes a super hero!
The cast is excellent, too, determined to put on a really good show and succeeding, with plenty of energy and much audience participation.
The villain, Mordecai (Ben Locke) is suitably villainous; Beauty (Emma Kinney), despite her slightly passive role isn't a simperer, but has real gumption. Then there's Phylip Harries as dame, Nurse Nellie. He comes up with his usual one-liners, improvisations and fun with, and at the expense of, the audience, and his presence on stage adds much to the entertainment.
The songs are delivered by the cast, who prove once again also to be consummate musicians in a range of numbers from 1960s classics to the likes of Kate Bush and Coldplay.
This is a time of transition for Theatr Clwyd. Having continued to present interesting, funny, thought-provoking theatre in difficult circumstances during the refuth, it needs this panto to be a success. Actors and crew seem to be fully aware of this and deliver a committed performance and as a result, a really fulfilling evening's entertainment.
More info and tickets here