Christmas didn’t feel like Christmas without the festive shows last year so it’s great to see the return of the panto.
This year’s extravaganza at the Hippodrome stars Birds of a Feather access Lesley Joseph, barrister turned TV star Robbie Rinder and Bristol’s panto stalwart, Andy Ford.
The return of the Bristol panto
From the start it’s clear this is going to an in-your-face, lavish affair with a bright, glistening set and over the top costumes.
Lesley Joseph is very good as the evil Queen Dragonella and clearly loves her role as the baddie. She stands on stage several times with her arms in the air lapping up the boos and hisses.
As for Robbie Rinder, who plays the man in Queen Dragonella’s magic mirror, I must admit I was surprised by his acting ability. The programme tells us he trained as an actor as a child but he hasn’t trod the board since. However, he puts in a great performance and has some funny one liners.
Andy Ford, who is appearing in his eighth Bristol pantomime, is no third wheel. Playing Muddles, the queen‘s bumbling assistant, he is on stage pretty much constantly and responsible for a lot of the funniest moments. He has a brilliant rapport with the crowd and a scene where he lips syncs to various songs, which of course leads to those obligatory sexual innuendos, is one of the highlights of the show.
The usual nods to the locals are plentiful. There are Bristol accents for the dwarfs, a dig at local rivals Swindon and Weston-super-Mare and a joke about the form of Bristol City.
But the best scene has to be when Joseph, Ford and Rinder are joined by Dale Mathurin, who plays Prince Harry of Hengrove, for a very entertaining performance of the 12 Days of Christmas. As they grab various props (fiveeeeee toilettttt rollllls), chaos ensues. It is of course all set up but it is genuinely hilarious.
The weakest moments are unfortunately when the big stars aren’t on stage. Charlotte Haines isn’t given many opportunities to shine as Snow White, and it‘s a similar story for Prince Harry.
Saying that though, this is up there as one of the best pantos we’ve seen at Bristol Hippodrome. It marks the return to a more traditional format with less of the over the top innuendos which we felt got a bit too much in recent years. It’s also nice that it doesn’t follow the recent tradition of letting audience members get out their phones and take pictures of one scene. It was good to watch it without lots of screens.
At the end of the press night show Lesley Joseph made a short speech saying “Some of us haven’t been on a stage for two years. It’s so good to be back at live theatre.”
Queen Dragonella, we couldn’t agree more!
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is at Bristol Hippodrome until 2 January 2022. Book your tickets here.
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