Cinderella Panto at His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen – It’s Panto Season! Cinderella has hit Aberdeen, so is there something for all the family, and is it worth your spondoolies?
First off, the venue is beautiful. His Majesty’s Theatre is such an elegant space. The kids always stand gawping around when we first arrive, drinking it all in. A Panto here is an event.
Curtain’s Up on a World of Nonsense
Cinderella was a fabulous riot of colour and glorious nonsense. The kids were enthralled, the double entendres worked every time, I had tears running down my face laughing at a scene involving an Alexa machine and a dodgy first date, and during a Strictly-style dance off my son was grooving in his seat, copying the chararcters doing the Macarena, followed by Agadoo, finishing off with Gangman Style.
The word ‘Nonsense’ sounds derogatory, and Panto looks easy, but pulling this whirlwind of glitter, tongue twisters, romance, song, comedy and colour takes great skill – writer and director Alan McHugh nailed it (he also stars as Baroness Heifer McHardup – what a multi-tasker!).
I love hearing a bit of Doric, I love having Aberdeen referenced on stage – maybe if you live in London you tire of seeing your hometown on stage and screen, but we don’t get that often. It’s fantastic to laugh at ourselves and celebrate our quirks!
Some folk love a good star in a Panto. I don’t generally watch the programmes these actors are plucked from (not in a snooty way, they’re just not my cup of tea), but I totally recognise that they’ve carved a career in a very tough industry, and they’re consummate professionals. Whether you recognise the names or not, you’re paying to see good actors at work.
For me, the biggest name was Laura Main (the doctor’s wife from Call the Midwife). Originally from Aberdeen, she played the Fairy Godmother. Louie Spence may be more recognisable to others, he’s been in almost every show with ‘Celebrity’ in the title, but I loved the fact he was once a backing dancer for the Spice Girls – girl power! Anyway, he’s worth his weight in 24 carat gold sequins. His twerking scene is a thing of beauty (kind of), and his Swan Lake with Alan McHugh was unique.
The Ugly Sisters were pure weegie, telling the kids repeatedly to ‘Shut Yer Face!!’ – how rude! Junior, aged 4, loved their OTT costumes. Verruca was played by Sally Howitt from River City, and Hernia was played by Joy McAvoy from Two Doors Down. Finally, wee Buttons was adorable – Paul-James Corrigan from River City. [Although I’m not quite sure how River City stays afloat during the Scottish panto season.]
What I love about panto is that the main characters, Cinderella and Prince Charming, are clearly life’s winners. They’re stereotypically attractive, they’re rich and royal, they’re blissfully happy and in love, which is great for them. But isn’t it a timely message for kids, that there’s so much fun to be had on the margins, with the folk who are a bit different, a bit bonkers, a bit colourful. That’s where the laughs are, not at the palace. Just be yourself.
As well as the stars and the venue, the production values are what you’re paying for. The vibrant costumes and the sheer amount of costume changes, the intricate lighting, the rich set design, it’s all there.
I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but my kids were blown away by Cinderella’s carriage at the end of Act 1. Act 2 opened at the Prince’s Ball, and it looked like Versailles on drugs. All very opulent and imaginative.
The cheapest ticket is for a ‘Relaxed Performance’ on 3 January, at £14.50 – this show is quieter, with less vibrant lighting, and aimed at audiences with autism and those who benefit from reduced sensory stimulation.
The starting prices for tickets varies between £20-£25, going up to £36. The HMT pantomime isn’t cheap, but I do believe you get what you pay for. This is an event, a family outing, a real treat. That’s how I view it, and I made it clear to the kids this outing was a festive occasion.
Last year, my mother-in-law bought us a family ticket for Christmas. We realised the kids had enough toys and plastic junk in their lives, we didn’t need more stuff, so we requested an experience instead. I considered that money well spent.
Parking is relatively easy at the Denburn car park. Any queues to depart dissipate in a few minutes, it’s pretty straightforward.
Toys, ice cream and drinks (soft and alcoholic) can be bought at various stands in the theatre and there are two bars. You can preorder drinks for the interval when you arrive. During the interval a bell will sound, summoning you back to your seat, so you don’t need to clock watch.
If you purchase a programme, it also contains Panto Puzzlers for the kids to keep them occupied before the curtain rises.
There is a British Sign Language and an Audio Described performance. Discover more here.
The show’s running time is First act: 55 mins, Interval 20 mins, Second act: 55 mins. We attended the 7pm show, and had the kids in bed by around 9.45pm – quite late, but they didn’t mind, and woke us at 7.30am the next day full of beans. Show timings are 1pm, 1:45pm, 2:30pm, 5:30pm & 7pm.
Babies and buggies – Children under two are free for performances sold with reserved seating, provided they can sit on their parent’s knee. Buggies can be stored in the dress circle bar throughout the show.
Ultimately, as a family, we had a ball at this year’s Panto. It’s rare for us all to be raving about something. The kids have gone to school today full of tales of flying horses, dancing pumpkins and sparkles. It’s kick-started our Christmas, and I believe most families would have a hoot.