Bristol Hippodrome’s Cinderella panto: Craig Revel Horwood, a sky high budget and West Countryisms

My housemate asked if the horses were real

Knackered parents and ecstatic children joined me in the snaking queue outside the Bristol Hippodrome on Thursday evening for an all singing, all dancing spectacular.

The faces of children in Santa hats lit up as they were dowsed in fake snow in the queue, whilst glum parents visibly contemplated every life decision that had led up to this point. It felt like watching ‘Motherland’ in real life. 

Whether they liked it or not, the parents, along with the kids would soon be immersed in the magical world of pantomime.

Inside the theatre, after grabbing some salty popcorn (for a fiver) the show commenced. 

It was the Cinderella story we know so well, with all the cheesy, garish staples of a pantomime, but instead of being set in the Land of Far Far Away, it was set in Bristol. Jokes about Horfields and Bedminster being out of the way and Cornwall incest slander filled the show. The gruff voiced Buttons who greeted the audience “Alright Brizzle” each time he entered the stage, provided a truly immersive West Country experience. 

Credit: Stephen Lewis 

Startling set pieces that would cost the price of a year of student rent were used to entrance the audience. The white horses used for Cinderella’s carriage were so realistic that the 8 year old sat on my right and the 20 year old to my left, my housemate, both asked if they were real horses. I didn’t know who would be more hurt if I said they were fake so I just kept quiet.

The strictest judge on Strictly Come Dancing, Craig Revel Horwood, featured as a tantalizing Evil Stepmother, another marker of the swelling budget. The novelty of seeing the meanest strictly judge tap dance round the stage accompanied by a sparkling array of grinning backup dancers added to the glitz of the show.

However, there were times where he broke character and laughed. I felt resentful on behalf of all the Strictly contestants he has terrorised. Get your shit together, Horwood. 

Credit: Stephen Lewis

The show was aesthetically bold and remarkable. The dancers were choreographed to perfection, with leaps, spins and acrobatics.

However, the same scaling up was not applied to the script which bordered on being too basic. The kids loved it, with high pitched screams that only dogs could hear and air punches like sweaty indie boys at a Fontaines D.C concert. But, like Dreamworks films, the best productions are those that appeal to both adults and children. Buttons’ shoutout to Cotham Gardens Primary school got the kids whaling with delight, but the political jokes, and cultural references for the parents were not always very witty and were sometimes met with an awkward silence. 

Nonetheless, as Buttons declared philosophically in the finale, “in pantomime, all the adults become children again.” Yes, you certainly leave feeling a little lighter, dazzled by the lights of the show, or was it the wine? Either way Cinderella was worth a watch, and plunges you into a Christmas world which will get you feeling festive whether you like it or not. 

The featured image is credited to Stephen Lewis. 

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