As festive as Brussels sprouts and bath salts but a lot more enjoyable, the New Theatre panto has a habit of attracting big names.
And in keeping with tradition, this year’s show featured comedy star and world double entendre champion Julian Clary.
Produced by leading theatrical producer Qdos, renowned for its special effects and high production values, the first visual feat was making Clary look younger than his actual age – 53.
Appearing from a space rocket, the ever-youthful comic, a sparkling vision in outlandish attire, took on the role of the Spirit Of The Beans, setting the tone for a rollicking romp – part-Carry On, part-traditional panto – with a line about how nobody likes to be bent double in a confined space.
Situated in the town of St David’s On The Turn (getting the picture?) ruled over by a ruthless giant named Dai Slowly (you got the picture?), this was the classic story of Jack and the Beanstalk given a local flavouring with plenty of South Wales place name references and a heavy coating of Cardiff colour to keep the audience happy.
The bright-eyed production featured our eponymous hero Jack (Dan Burton) setting off to do battle with the giant and save the damsel in distress, Princess Apricot (Emily Hawgood), who had been kidnapped by the wicked giant’s henchman Fleshcreep – played with malevolent aplomb by Cavin Cornwall, a whip-wielding villain possessing a booming valleys mineshaft deep voice.
While Clary was a glitzy and eye-catching adornment to proceedings, like the stardust-sprinkling fairy atop a Christmas tree, it was Welsh comedian Mike Doyle as Dame Trot who stole the show.
Akin to a mad-eyed Welsh Nana who has had too many Christmas sherries, he was the centrifugal force at the eye of the theatrical storm in a panto that cracked along with all the alacrity of Fleshcreep’s whip.
An all-singing, all-dancing, larger-than-life cross-dressing funnyman, what was all the more surprising was the discovery that this was Doyle’s first outing as a Dame – a comedic role he looked born to play and one he handled with lipstick-smeared panache. (You might never look at Shirley Bassey in the same light again after this show).
So Jack and the Beanstalk had everything you would desire from a pantomime – the humour danced merrily between slapstick for the kids and something altogether more risque for the adults, without it ever becoming vulgar and crude.
There was your traditional panto fare (oh yes there was) of sword fights, songs and dazzling choreography, as well as modern concessions to technology – the scary Animatronic giant sending my four-year-old scurrying to the back of her seat.
More high camp than a sequinned tent on the side of Mount Everest, Jack and the Beanstalk promised much and delivered everything you would want from a pantomime.
In essence, the perfect festive show for all the family.