Last year it was a case of “oh no you won’t” for Christmas pantos across Wales, but this year they will go ahead in time… oh yes they will! In search of the best, Jamie Rees has combed the entire country to bring you his top picks.
For the best pantos in Wales this festive season, we start in north Wales and Theatr Clwyd in Mold: their self-styled “rock’n’roll Christmas panto” take on Beauty & The Beast, where the actors play the instruments as well as the characters, has become a staple in the Welsh calendar from this producing theatre company. Written by Christian Patterson, who has also written Jack And The Beanstalk and Dick Whittington in recent years, this panto also stars a returning favourite, the hilarious Phylip Harries as the dame. Perhaps the most musically upbeat panto of them all this Christmas, its epic run was due to last from Fri 26 Nov to Sat 15 Jan; though forced to close early, from Tue 4-Sat 8 Jan they’ll be screening one of this season’s showings each day at 3pm and 7pm (info here).
Staying in that region, and the first of three productions of Aladdin in this roundup of pantos in Wales this Christmas. This incarnation, from Imagine Theatre Company, will run at Venue Cymru in Llandudno from Sat 11 Dec to Sun 2 Jan and stars the hilarious John Evans, making a return to Llandudno as the hapless dame Wishee Washee. Local actor and TV presenter James Lusted, best known for his appearances in documentaries Byd Mawr y Dyn Bach (The Small Man’s Big World), Born Small and Big Love will also join the cast for the three-week run.
Aladdin is also the panto of choice for Cardiff’s offering this year, and it’s a great lineup too. Gareth Gates celebrates 20 years since appearing in Pop Idol with his performance as Aladdin, while many a chuckle’ll be provided by remaining Chuckle Brother, Paul. With all-round entertainer Mike Doyle as the Dame, and former Welsh rugby international Gareth Thomas returning, the New Theatre panto is from Sat 4 Dec to Sun 2 Jan.
Heading west to the Torch Theatre in Milford Haven, and another home-grown panto from one of our professional producing theatre companies. Cinderella is regularly voted the favourite panto story of them all, and if you ever wanted to try a panto outside of the big city offerings then the Torch’s has to be one of the finest. What you get here, as in Mold, is quality performances, wonderful storytelling and exceptional production values. This small to midsize producing theatre in Pembrokeshire really does punch way above its weight and its Dame Dion Davies, I would argue, is one of the best-frocked fellas in panto land. It’s also one of the most affordable Christmas shows, at £66 for the whole family (maximum two adults), and runs from Thurs 16 to Fri 31 Dec.
Staying in west Wales, the Ffwrnes in Llanelli makes a great venue to visit for a Christmas theatre experience and it’s easily the most affordable panto in this roundup, with tickets around the £12 mark on average. Indeed, the three-strong Carmarthenshire Theatres group in this beautiful county offers a packed programme of events at Christmas – 2021-22 is no exception, even if slimmed down a little due to the pandemic. Their panto this year is Peter Pan by the award-winning Friendship Theatre Group: an underperformed panto, which runs from Thurs 13 to Sun 30 Jan. So if you like your panto post-Christmas then I would warmly recommend this trip to Neverland, or Llanelli as it is otherwise known.
It’s not Aladdin again, surely? Oh yes it is! What’s more, it’s a panto by the seaside in Porthcawl. The Grand Pavilion’s panto is another where you might not get the celebs on stage, but you will get a fun day or night out at the theatre that’s affordable, with tickets starting at £16 and topping out at £22. I can’t recommend the smaller pantos outside of the major cities enough – and here’s another one where you’re guaranteed a good time that won’t break the bank. The Pavilion’s café has also had a gorgeous makeover, befitting of this lovely venue with its striking octagonal domed auditorium, so why not grab some food or a hot drink pre-show while you’re there? Aladdin runs in Porthcawl from Sat 11 Dec to Sun 2 Jan.
words JAMIE REES
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