Festive season promises treat for culture vultures and slapstick lovers alike

Monday 2 December 2013, 10:08

Polly March Polly March

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'Tis once again the season to be jolly, and arts venues across Wales will be serving up an array of Christmas crackers this festive period to entice you in from the cold.

National Theatre Wales is putting on its first ever Christmas show in the atmospheric environs of Cardiff Castle, from 19 December to 4 January.

Silly Kings is a full-scale musical adaptation of Monty Python star Terry Jones' Fairy Tales, which will feature live music from Groove Armada's Patrick Dawes as well as a whole host of circus performers and other musicians, in a huge, heated Spiegeltent within the castle.

The musical has been adapted by Katherine Chandler and will be directed by Jo Davies, who has worked as a director and associate director at the ENO, Royal Opera House, Royal National Theatre, Barbican, in London's West End and on Broadway to name a few.

George Fuller and and Hannah McPake in rehearsal for Silly Kings George Fuller and and Hannah McPake in rehearsal for Silly Kings. Photo: Farrows Creative/National Theatre Wales

At the Aberystwyth Arts Centre audiences can enjoy a stage adaptation of one of the biggest tearjerkers of all time - festive favourite It's A Wonderful Life (19-22 December), directed by Richard Hull and featuring all the best belting Christmas carols.

The venue's more traditional panto fare comes in the form of the cunningly named Dick Whittington and the Pi-Rats of the Caribbean (9-24 January), where youngsters can join Dick and his amazing cat as they journey to London to make their fortune.

Meanwhile, Clwyd Theatr Cymru in Mold hosts its rock 'n' roll pantomime version of Beauty and the Beast (until 25 January) replete with jokes, slapstick and audience participation and starring Phylip Harries as Dame Bronwen Bigbreaths.

It features over 20 rock 'n' roll and soul favourites including Let Me Entertain You, Hot Stuff, Keep on Runnin', Without You and Love Train to really get the festive roar going.

The Sherman Cymru has commissioned Penarth writer Robert Alan Evans to adapt the traditional fairytale Sleeping Beauty for their Christmas show, but in his version there are in fact two beauties, best friends Dawn and Eve, played by Gwawr Loader and Bettrys Jones.

The Sleeping Beauties (6 December until 4 January) will also feature actress and 9Bach folk singer Lisa Jen Brown as a magical storyteller who will guide the audience on their journey with the two beauties, while performing songs composed by Lucy Rivers.

Lisa Jen Brown, Bettrys Jones and Gwawr Loader in Sleeping Beauties Lisa Jen Brown, Bettrys Jones and Gwawr Loader in Sleeping Beauties. Photo: Kirsten McTernan

Children's book writer Elen Caldecott from Wrexham has penned her first ever children's play to entertain under-sevens at the theatre this Christmas.

Bilingual productions Corina Pavlova and the Lion's Roar/Corina Pavlova a'r Llew sy'n Rhuo opened at the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff on 8 November before touring a whole host of venues across Wales, including Theatr Brycheiniog in Brecon, Pontardawe Arts Centre, the Beaufort in Ebbw Vale and the Grand Pavilion, Porthcawl, before returning to the Sherman from 9 December until 4 January.

Just down the road at the Wales Millennium Centre, Hijinx Theatre's Odyssey theatre group present The Last Snow of Winter (5-7 December) inspired by stories of great journeys.

The centre, in partnership with Big Talent Show, also presents the Young Company Christmas Show (14 December), a charming tale about the finest Christmas puddings ever tasted and a little chimney sweep ordered to steal the recipe. To book call 029 2063 6464 or visit wmc.org.uk.

Images from Corina Pavlova Images from Corina Pavlova. Photos: Mark Douet

Anglesey-born soprano Llio Evans will be returning to her native north Wales on 7 December to perform in a celebration of Christmas at Theatr Colwyn, Colwyn Bay.

Noёl, Noёl – The Sound of Christmas also stars tenor Matthew Sims and baritone Owen Webb with accompaniment from Annette Bryn Parri, and will be at other venues in Wales throughout the festive season.

To whet the panto appetite a production of Dick Whittington will run at the theatre from 21 December to 4 January featuring all the traditional pantomime ingredients such as songs, a live band, magic illusions, puppets and a big festive dollop of slapstick comedy.

Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff will be running a darkly comic Christmas sequel to the award-winning musical My Name Is Sue.

Sue Timms, the piano-wielding prophet, returns for Sue: The Second Coming, a cabaret-drama featuring piano playing Sue and her alternative guide to Christmas.

It is a collaboration between the two award‐winning theatre‐makers responsible for National Theatre Wales' The Village Social: writer‐director Ben Lewis and writer‐composer Dafydd James.

The production opens for one-week runs at Chapter Arts Centre (3-7 December), the Soho Theatre in London and Bristol Old Vic.

Sue: The Second Coming Dafydd James as Sue Timms in Sue: The Second Coming. Photo: Kirsten McTernan

Also at Chapter, Shock and Awe present adult-only satirical Christmas review of the year Beauty and the Beasts from 16-18 December. Those who would like to contribute ideas for songs and sketches should contact shocknawe.org.uk.

From 18-20 December, the Leftfield Theatre Company will retell the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge in Humbug, a production that sees modern dance merged with theatre and explores beyond the themes of the Dickens original to a social analysis of a person’s place in modern society.

Meanwhile in Swansea, spectators can enjoy a fully immersive promenade performance of A Queer Christmas, a new show by Bethan Marlow with Mess up the Mess, which takes place at various locations along Swansea High Street.

The show is based on interviews with Swansea's LGBT community and also new writing from various workshops Bethan has held, and aims to give an accurate representation of LGBT life in the city.

The cast is a mixture of professional actors and local actors, dancers and performers, and includes Aled Pedrick (who recently directed Finborough Theatre's acclaimed Saer Doliau), Meilir Rhys Williams and Peri Thomas. It runs from 6-8 December, starting at the Kings Arms Pub, High Street, Swansea.

At the New Theatre in Cardiff the uplifting The Holly and the Ivy runs from 4-7 December and stars Stuart McGugan (It Ain't Half Hot Mum/Tutti Frutti), Corrine Wicks (Emmerdale/Doctors), Tom Butcher (The Bill/Doctors), Dean Smith (Waterloo Road) and Hildegard Neil (Anthony & Cleopatra).

Meanwhile, this year's panto is Jack and the Beanstalk which stars Julian Clary and Mike Doyle (14 December to 19 January).  For more info visit newtheatrecardiff.co.uk or call the box office on 029 2087 8889.

A few miles down the M4 at The Riverfront in Newport, Hiss and Boo present Beauty and the Beast (3 December to 5 January) starring S4C Tag presenter and Pobol Y Cwm star Elin Llwyd, and Eastenders and Gwaith Cartref's Richard Elis. Over at The Swansea Grand it's Peter Pan with Jimmy Osmond, Kevin Johns and Liam Mellor, running from 13 December to 12 January.

Justin Fletcher from CBeebies will star as the magic mirror in The Grand Pavilion Porthcawl's Christmas panto Snow White (11 December to 5 January). While at The Torch Theatre in Milford Haven, audiences can enjoy Aladdin (20-28 December) as well as Cardiff trio The Siren Sisters in their Christmas show on 14 December.

Over at Venue Cymru in Llandudno, Coronation Street's Vicky Entwhistle, Coach Trip's Brendan Sheerin and John Evans will star in Sleeping Beauty from 7-29 December followed by Tommy Steele in Scrooge from 6-11 January.

And at The Lyric in Carmarthen, Owen Money stars in Aladdin (3-12 January) which is on a tour of Wales between November and February. 

Although this is just a snapshot of what theatres across Wales have in store this season, we hope we've found something to tickle your festive fancy among all these Christmas treats.

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