Tag Archives: Family Entertainment

REVIEW: RED BY GEMMA TREHARNE-FOOSE

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5) Unmissable

I hadn’t realised how much I had needed Red until I went to see it. Although primarily a show for young audiences (Age 7+), this is a show that will entice and delight from the get-go. Inspired by Little Red Riding Hood, audiences are drawn into the wonderful world of Amazon-esque delivery couriers Jones and Groves. The two playfully navigate the mysterious woods as they struggle to deliver a special package to a cottage well off the beaten track. Along the way they encounter a curious ‘tree dweller’ chap called Peter.

Actor Connor Allen (who some regular theatre goers might recognise from the Sherman’s ‘Bird’ production) is a great addition to Hazel Anderson and Ellen Groves (who brought us the stunning production ‘The Giant That Had no Heart In His Body’). There is something so watchable and endearing about Allen’s vulnerability on stage that makes him a delight to watch. It’s also wonderful to see more creative brilliance from Director Hannah McPake, co-founder of Gagglebabble whose previous show Wonderman I had enjoyed so much.

Don’t expect big fanciful sets and props here, the magic of this show is the pictures they paint with the stripped-down set. Scaffolding becomes a tree, a cottage and  a bush, pool noodles become spider legs, an old Ikea bag turned inside out doubles as a dung beetle costume. There is wonderful interplay and energy between the cast, who riff off one another and egg each other on.

Audience members are given a ‘special briefing’ on the way in. We are now pigeons and some audience members become involved in the ‘special mission’ itself. We coo throughout the performance and at one point, we all stand up and perform some aerobics. This isn’t just a show about delivering the package and the link with Little Red Riding Hood is almost secondary to the real story of the play. That our fear of the unknown is almost primal, handed down to us by parents or others. The day after the election results (when this play opened), this feels almost intuitively timely.

“Why are you scared of wolves?” one of the characters asks. Was it the claws and the fangs and the fact they want to eat little children?

As the contents of the package are revealed, the play asks us to ponder the possibility that actually WE are the wolves, that wolves are within us all. Wolves, forests, new places, scary quests that test you and your bravery. All these can be monstrous until and unless you face your fears.

It’s subtle and clever storytelling that weaves stereotypes, myth and legends with the whimsical, silly and imaginative.

They do so incredibly well to blend all elements together in a way which will envelope you until you feel like you’re up on the scaffolding with them.

The quips, gags and clowning that Hazel Anderson and Ellen Groves add to the mix are spectacular. There are no groans or polite chuckles here. Expect gutsy belly laughs and un-self-conscious comments/suggestions shouted out from the little ones in the audience. It feels brilliantly intimate and homespun, like as if your mad aunties are doing a turn in the living room and Nan’s been on the sherry again.

Little audience members will love the montage routine, circus skills, dream beavers and jazz badgers. It’ll all make perfect sense once you have stepped into the forest. Oh…if you can’t find it on the ‘magic map’ that looks like Antarctica, it’s near Tesco Express.

Better than pantomime, with better gags and more imaginative costumes – this is a first-class family experience and definitely not to be missed.


Catch the cast of Red at the Wales Millennium Centre (Weston Studio) until 29th December

Review: Cinderella, Riverfront by Gemma Treharne-Foose

Cinderella, playing now at Newport’s Riverfront Theatre

When it comes to getting in the festive spirit, Newport might not always be the first thought that pops into your head. But Newport’s Riverfront venue was full of festive cheer this week as the City served up the first Christmas Panto of the season – the biggest the city’s arts team has ever staged.

One of eight venues run under the City’s ‘Newport Live’ banner, the Riverfront sits on the banks of the River Usk, and you can glimpse the city’s distinctive red ‘Steel Wave’ sculpture by Peter Finch from the windows of the café and terrace. For Cardiff and Valleys audiences, the Riverfront won’t be front of mind when it comes to theatre and the arts, with the WMC, New Theatre, Sherman and RCT’s Park & Dare and Coliseum venues hosting their own festive programme of new and family favourites. For many round my way, a trip to Porthcawl is an annual tradition that just can’t be broken.

So why go to Newport?

The Riverfront is far from a one trick pantomime horse. I had been before with my daughter to spend our Tempo Time Credits at a family cinema event and had a great experience. The venue has two theatre spaces, a dance and recording studio and ample accessible space to visit its café and hold events and workshops.

It’s position just a few minutes away from the Friar Walk shopping development is also a great way to get in some Christmas shopping and a pre-theatre dinner in walking distance to your show.

One thing you might notice about the Riverfront, though? The staff are great. I mean really great and genuinely interested in you and your experience. It’s something I haven’t noticed as much in some of Cardiff’s more famous venues. Perhaps they don’t have to work as hard for your custom…

That’s not to downplay what others are doing, but I really did notice a marked difference. Riverfront/Newport Live staff greet you, look you, look you in the eye and ask you about your day, ask you your thoughts on the show. There was a definite family feel in this venue that I hadn’t been expecting.

So this year’s show? An impressive turn from some familiar faces to audiences, with Gareth Tempest returning to this year’s performance as Prince Charming (being a former member of the children’s chorus at Riverfront in 2004) and Newport native Keiron Self as Buttons.

Actor Richard Elis (Eastenders, The Bill, Casualty and The Bill) does a fantastic turn as Candy, one half of the awfully endearing ugly sisters alongside Geraint Rhys Edwards as Flossie. Any Welsh speakers who love his silly and sassy Welshie portrayals and skits on ‘Hansch’ will be tickled pink to see his face in the programme.

Elis and Edwards have fantastic energy and sassy pants to go with their comic chops. They don’t even have to be speaking to make you cackle.

Between them and Keiron Self as love-sick buttons, there are plenty of quips, cheeseball lines, puns and innuendo you’d expect to see at the panto – not all of it hilarious, mind! The show’s setting in ‘Newport Bay’ by the sea is interesting and the set and staging is very well done, with the ensemble cast and choreography by Angela Sheppard bringing the show to life. I’d like to have seen more comedy spread to the female cast members as well…the traditional panto format shouldn’t save all the funny nuggets for the men. Trust me, Newport women are hilarious (my Newport family being the case in point!).

There’s a standout scene where Keiron Self is locked out in the rain and climbs up onto the roof while Cinderella is serenading the crowds. A beautiful bit of physical comedy. Of course, Cinderella and Prince Charming provide the schmaltz and the cheese, but their vocals are lovely and warming.

This year’s panto is part of a great 2019/2020 programme and I’d encourage you to consider it for your next night out.

Cardiff gets all the love and attention – it’s time to spread the love! Newport should no longer be the Ugly Sister when it comes to Theatre (ohhhh no it shouldn’t!).

Support your local arts venues, folks – and maybe….consider changing your usual haunt this year for a lovely little panto set in ‘Newport Bay’. Trust me, those Ugly Sisters will keep you chuckling long after the glitter’s been put away in January.

Cinderella is playing until 4th Jan 2020, see more at Riverfront

Review Around The World In 80 Days by Jane Bissett

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

By Jules Verne

Adapted by Laura Eason

Phileas Fogg is a mysterious and wealthy man who while at his London club wagers his life’s fortune that he can circumnavigate the globe in 80 days.

Joining him on this mad cap and most impossible adventure is his loyal french valet, Passepartout. Leaving Victorian London behind they race against time and tide to fulfill their undertaking and to ensure that they return home in 80 days to the hour for Fogg to win the wager.

This production is a wonderfully funny romp around the globe with Fogg as our leader and Passepartout as our guide. From the exotic subcontinent to the American Wild West over land and sea there are laughs a plenty and audience participation. The fast moving pace leaves you almost breathless and it is impossible to believe that the 125 characters you see on the stage are only played by a cast of eight!

The energy of this magnificantly talented cast is inspiring as they move from trains to boats, across land and even travel by elephant!

There is also a daring rescue,four fights, three dances and two circus acts and they even manage a wedding!

The highly skilled performances for the non-contact fights including slow motion was punctuated by sound effects and comic timing which looked effortless. This was stage craft at its very best and the action just went on and on.

Director, Theresa Heskins, has achieved the impossible by bringing the world to the stage and the cast and creative team rose to the challenge of bringing it all to life by the use of stage, props, lighting and sound.

Whilst this was truly a whole cast performance, Michael Hugo as Passepartout was outstanding. He had the audience joining him on stage and off to great effect laughing at him, with him, and also at themselves.

This is a truly enjoyable show for which you need to take along your inner child and leave your inhibitions as home.

Prepare to go on a journey that will see you laughing your way around the world and leave you wanting more.

At the final curtain, when the cast returned to the stage the beaming smiles were a clear indication that they, the cast, had enjoyed performing as much as the audience had enjoyed the performance.

Around the World in 80 Days plays at Cardiff’s New Theatre from;

Tuesday 19 September – Sunday 24 September at 7.00pm

Thursday, Saturday and Sunday Matinees at 2.30pm.

For further details or to book tickets call the Box Office on 02920878889.