Hiss and Boo, The Riverfront Theatre Newport
A Cracking Good Panto!
There’s a sharp frost in the
air. The bright lights of Newport’s Riverfront Theatre beckon. Inside the
foyer there’s a mass of young people bubbling with excited anticipation, laser
swords are waving and cutlasses gleaming. It’s pantomime time!
Multi-instrumentalist Julian Tucker and his great band, Ray Dizon on drums
give us a rousing opening chord, play some very funny overture music and to
let us know we‘re in fairyland Tinkerbelle flies all around the stage by the
magic of laser projection.
The newsboy’s loud cry of “Evening Standard” tells us we are in old London
Town. He does a little tap dance at the foot of a lamp post and miraculously
it lights up! More very lively music and the whole company burst into a flurry
of Cockney dancing with the irrepressible Phylip Harries, this time out of his
pantomime dame attire, in bright shiny waistcoat giving us in song his raucous
impression of a Pearly King in full flight, with a nod and a wink and few
‘innocent’ double entendres we are away with robust delight.
Bloomsbury is quickly transformed into the nursery in the Darling home, backed
with twinkling stars. We have a brief meeting with Nanna, a huge fluffy dog
that I would have liked to have seen a lot more of. Riverfront pantomime
regular Brian Hibbard is an irritable hapless Mr Darling and he is assisted by
the gentle charm of his wife played by Gillian Elisa, keeping her comedy
powder dry for later in the show. Then there are the children, first Michael
played with wondrous wide eyes, alternately by Oliver Evans and Joe Hurst,
John played with confidence by young actor Ashley Rolfe who does his best to
be ‘grown-up’ but just can’t quite make it. Finally of course the engaging
Wendy, a delightful and captivating performance from Anna Campkin who sings
with a very clear beauty.
Into all this flies Peter, this is a dashing and most enjoyable performance
from Kate Rawson, the central member of this charming, very entertaining team.
He really does fly, high and all over the stage, very soon Wendy and her
brothers are equally transported. The back stage crew handled what for a
relatively small theatre is quite a technical challenge with great expertise.
Soon we are in Neverland with Wendy as a welcome and coveted mother figure to
the very lively Lost Boys but as with all good pantomimes trouble is just
around the corner. Or is it? Smee, Phylip Harries and Starkey, Francois
Pandolfo form a top class comedy duo having great fun with the young audience
as well as a bit with the older ones but scary pirates they do not make.
There is one scary one though, a very scary one, a menacing Captain Hook and
in the hands of Brian Hibbard with his deft approach to the villain he
cleverly elicits our antagonism without frightening any of the very young
people in the audience too much. Before he captures all the ‘goodies’ Wendy
and co have a charming escapade first with a bubbly mermaid, Gillian Elisa,
with a twinkle in her eye and despite their fishtales the ensemble,
choreographed by Sarah Cortez give us another of their clever sprightly
dances. Then secondly Gillian Elisa sheds her fishtale and returns as Big
Chief Mama. This is an hilarious Indian ritual, all kept to a beat of a drum
and a touch of the Welsh language.
A lively mixture of great songs, magic and fun the Riverfront pantomime has
all that a cracking good panto needs.
Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan
Peter Pan - Panto at it's Best
tinsel, nostalgia, and slapstick silliness. Yes, panto season is here again.
no it isn't etc).
Hiss and Boo have reshaped J. M. Barrie's classic Peter Pan into a seasonal
jaunt for all age ages. While not structurally a natural choice for panto this
adaptation actually works pretty well, thanks to the help of the script put
together by ex Russ Abbot Richard Gauntlett and director Ben Tyreman's
familiarity with the genre. New additions to Barrie's script abound- Dames are
drafted in, and parts for camp pirates written specially. All the ingredients
for frolics are here, there is even a pantomime crocodile in place of the
What Hiss and Boo Co do best is prove you don't need an ex celebrity family
name in order to make a decent panto. Instead they compile very credible and
committed talent and let the production work on merit, rather then clinging to
the coat tails of tired fame that would rather be elsewhere. In this way
Newport panto costs a fraction of its cousins in Cardiff and Bristol while
lacking nothing in terms of quality.
As for celebrity it is a credit to Brian Hibbard aka Captain Hook that he is
remembered for more than being the Ex Flying Picket frontman (Only You still
plays well though). He's a good jobbing actor and his villainous shenanigans
always go down a storm in these parts.
Most of the other laughs were provided by Phylip Harries and Francois
Pandolfo, the latter playing bottom buddy for Harries's dame, a Deliah Smith
in drag. Sarah Cortez played Tiger Lilly and surely pleased most of the dads
with her performance. Both Wendy and Peter Pan ( Kate Rawson and Anna Campkin)
were more than solid. Gillian Elisa was under-used in the cameo roles of a
weirdly Welsh Indian Chief and a Bonnie Tyler on the rocks mermaid. At one
point she led the cast in a version of Shout, most cymraegified, this was the
biggest and best number of the night. The young well disciplined chorus were
drilled and choreographed throughout, a credit to Cortez.
While something of a chaotic jumble at times, this was panto at its best. I
enjoyed this Peter Pan vastly more than the Hollywood version Hook - and there
you have it. Hiss and Boo, better than Spielberg....you read it here first.
Reviewed by: Chris Paul