Cinderella at Bristol Hippodrome: Top marks for Buttons but not such a high score for Strictly star Craig

Strictly judge Craig Revel Horwood is the big name, but it’s panto veteran Andy Ford who steals the show
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

In more than 40 years of watching Bristol Hippodrome pantomimes, I can’t recall a longer, louder or bigger boo than the one that greeted Craig Revel Horwood.

Starring as Cinderella’s wicked stepmother Baroness Demonica Hardup, the Strictly Come Dancing judge was met with a cacophany of jeers from the moment his stilettos hit the stage.

The dancer and former drag queen certainly played up to his panto villain persona and although he displayed some impressive dance moves, his acting was as hammy as a Christmas ham.

I know the role demands plenty of sneers and snarls, but there were moments during the show when it felt like he was simply going through the motions. Let’s hope he thaws out before the show closes on New Year’s Eve.

The ‘fab-u-lous’ Strictly star’s performance may not get top marks from this critic but that certainly wasn’t the case for Buttons, played by Andy Ford, making his tenth panto appearance at the Hippodrome.

Andy Ford plays Buttons in Cinderella at the Bristol Hippodrome (photo: Stephen Lewis)Andy Ford plays Buttons in Cinderella at the Bristol Hippodrome (photo: Stephen Lewis)
Andy Ford plays Buttons in Cinderella at the Bristol Hippodrome (photo: Stephen Lewis)

Arriving on stage on an e-scooter that almost ended up in the orchestra pit under the stage, Ford had the audience eating out of his hand from the outset.

As delightfully daft as ever, this panto veteran steals every scene he’s in and, without giving away any spoilers, he always comes up with new and hilarious gags and props.

Over the years, Ford has been the stooge to a number of big names in panto, including Barbara Windsor and David Hasselhoff, but he always seems to create a chemistry with them.

This was evident in the scenes with Revel Horwood, who was clearly enjoying a few unscripted moments with the panto veteran. Ford also managed to get the Strictly judge to speak Bristolian slang like ‘gurt lush’ and ‘cheers, drive’, much to the delight of the audience.

The full cast of Cinderella at Bristol Hippodrome (photo: Stephen Lewis)The full cast of Cinderella at Bristol Hippodrome (photo: Stephen Lewis)
The full cast of Cinderella at Bristol Hippodrome (photo: Stephen Lewis)

The city’s very own Lauren Hampton - a former student at Bristol School Of Dancing - was a delightful Cinderella, with Daniel Norford (Dandini) and Oliver Savile (Prince Charming) offering strong support.

As wicked stepsisters Claudia and Tess, Leanne Jones and Catherine Morris offer a fresh spin on the festive roles traditionally played by men in drag.

Stunning costumes, lots of surprises and plenty of audience participation makes this a panto that sparkles for all ages.

As I left, one little girl in a sparkling fairy dress was in floods of tears. When her mum asked why, she said ‘because I want to come back tomorrow’. And that’s the magic of panto.

Cinderella is at Bristol Hippodrome until December 31. For tickets, call 0333 009 6690 or go online here.