I’m very happy to be the Official Family Blogger for The Riverfront Theatre in Newport, and one of my first reviews for them was the wonderful panto Dick Wittington, and wonderful really is cutting the long story short.
All parents want when it comes to Christmas, or any time of year for that matter, is for our children to be happy, healthy and have fun right? So when I looked down at my children’s faces laughing and smiling at the brilliant performances on the stage, and transfixed without a second of boredom I knew that this was something special. The fact that I only caught a few glimpses of those happy faces because I was fascinated and enjoying myself says it all really, and my attention was possibly only dragged away because one of those spinning, flashing wand things had been shoved in my face- kids love those things don’t they?
Dick (Gareth Tempest) and Tommy (Emma Goodwin) shared their story with us with such energy and honesty that the whole audience was hooked straight away. The lovely Bowbells (Nerine Skinner) really brought some sparkle to the proceedings by clarifying the story as we went along as well, and lots of children were in awe every time she popped up just like magic!
There was also the brilliant mix of silly jokes that children laughed at and old references that parents giggled at, I was shocked to discover my children have no idea what the Titanic theme tune is, thanks for making me feel old whoever wrote that in! Oh and for the double entendres that the older ones in the audience were amused by (very amused indeed!).
As the story progressed and Sarah the Cook (Lee Mengo) was introduced the bright and colourful aspect of the pantomime really came to life, I am a fan of Lee, he really becomes the character he plays and has a unique way of playing the dame role and a surprisingly impressive singing voice! We saw Lee in Cinderella at the Riverfront a couple of years ago and thought exactly the same then, I’d even go as far as to say he steals the show.
Sarah the Cook accompanies Alice (Elin Llywd) and her father Alderman Fitzwarren (Michael Onslow who takes on no less than three roles), they have a real rapport and are lovely to watch, the Moroccan scene is so bright and colourful, including the dancing rats who were a breath of fresh air at various points of the show, I told my children that I can dance like that as they spun around the floor, oh how they laughed!
One of my little ones commented that “The stinky man was my favourite”, meaning King Rat (Richard Elis) of course, although I am sure he isn’t stinky really, and I understand why he was a favourite- a lot of children like to make as much noise as possible and shouting “RUDDY RAT!” when King Rat arrived on stage was exciting for them, along with the usual BOO and HISSSS! The hilarious jokes King Rat came up with also had the kids giggling and I think many parents will agree this kind of interaction in a show is great as it keeps the children engaged and helps keep them focussed. Well done Mr Rat.
We didn’t want the fun to end but Tommy had eliminated all the rats, including King Rat, which was slightly bitter sweet. So Newport, London and Morocco were safe and Dick and Alice were free to get married. Hooray! Fuzzy warm feelings all around!
The Riverfront also came up with a brilliant idea to stream the panto to two local hospitalsl to bring a little happiness to children who are poorly there, and I personally think this was a commendable thing to do, I do hope those children are all feeling better now ready for the new term in school.
I was incredibly impressed with this production and the quality of the acting, singing and dancing was outstanding. We can’t wait for next years show already. Everyone I spoke to that has seen the panto agreed as well, so I think it’s safe to say this was a hit.
It is worth mentioning as well that I always feel comfortable taking my children to The Riverfront, it is definitely family orientated and the space inside the venue also makes the visit more pleasant, no busy crowds or stuffy waiting areas to worry about losing the children in- yes I am one of those over anxious Mothers, and a little cafe selling all sorts of food and snacks, including those picnic boxes for the kids and coffee for the parents, reasonably priced too.
I will be sharing other things about The Riverfront here so check back for more!
Disclosure- I was given tickets for the purpose of review however all views are 100% mine and my family’s.