I found myself in the charming company of three coach loads of girls from Moreton Hall School last night…sharing the annual ritual of The Clwyd Panto. The young ladies clearly knew what to expect…cheering and screaming as soon as any cast member dared to step on stage. It was a bit like being at a Beatles Concert.
There were choruses of ‘We love you Buttons’; so I suspect the hilarious, blue-haired, Bluebottle-voiced James Haggie must be a dormitory pin up. And the roars of shock and awe when then Ugly Sisters confessed they’d done their GCSEs at Moreton Hall, must have been heard back in Oswestry.
Other pantos may get in first – but Christmas really begins at Clwyd. The winning formula is tweaked, but undisturbed. The running gags literally go on for decades. There’s the mischievous mice (this year they’ve eaten the pumpkin); the jokey song intros; the shopping trolley full of wordplays (though this time it’s the fish in Baron Hardup’s well); and the poor, put-upon drummer who only ever gets one line. This Christmas he’s got two … and one of those was brilliantly heckled. I love it all.
It’s the quality that counts. The acting is rumbustious. The musicianship is superb. The fun is unrelenting…though this year it did seem a little less innocent than usual. ‘Rocktastic’ Dandini’s Elvis gyrations were a hoot to start with … but they started a run of sexual innuendo that was less subtle than we regulars are used to. The Moreton girls clearly didn’t mind…but it’s not an ideal route to go down.
Much funnier was seeing Phylip Harries in trousers. He’s usually the Dame – but there isn’t one in Cinderella. Bouncy as ever, he explained he’d “had the operation” and there’d be “no boobs this year”. He was fibbing of course. He’s at his funniest when ad libbing his way out of calamities.
Instead, the chest footballs were worn by the devastatingly ugly sisters Dan Bottomley and Alex Parry…who found it difficult to get his guitar strap over them. They worked wonderfully together as they romped through “It’s Raining Men” and “Do You Wanna Dance”. When it came to trying on the slipper, the age-old ‘endless stocking’ routine is fully preserved, but with another clever twist (so keep your eyes peeled). Their mum’s a real belter too. Both Amy Penston as Rubella De Zees and the returning fairy Lindsay Goodhand are rock stars in their own right.
And so we come to the loving couple. Peter Rowe has written an extremely arrogant Prince Charming. Joe Vetch outraged the audience by saying how much he hated Mold, and wound up the girls something rotten with his decidedly chauvinistic tendencies. So when Cinders (excellent debutant Nicola Martinus-Smith) turned him down – the following dialogue was lost in a wave of sisterly support.
Last night, though, the whole show was stolen by a kid in the audience. Cinderella successfully shed her slipper as she fled from the Ball. There it was, centre stage, for all to see. But the cast still had to pretend not to have spotted it. The child couldn’t wait any longer and, with immaculate timing, shouted out, “It’s in front of you”. All the actors could do was stand and applaud.
The Clwyd Christmas Rock and Roll panto is impossible to beat.
Last night’s audience was having so much fun, the show overran by 17 minutes. And there must have been a fair few cases of laryngitis at Moreton Hall School’s morning assembly today.
Photo : Phil Cutts
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