Sunday, December 18, 2016

Pony Panto - edgy, energetic, and exciting festive entertainment (The Mac, until 23 Dec)

The Ponies were in good form when they bolted from their stable and leapt onto The Upstairs stage in The MAC on Friday evening. Pony Panto has been growing for many years, building up from an intimate show for the company’s friends and followers to what has become a less extreme and more mainstream yuletide performance that regularly sells out.

After a dark opening that reflected much of the year’s news agenda, matters livened up on the Cathedral Quarter stage with many old favourites returning to the programme: high energy dance routines, live music from the Brothers Scullion, quick costume changes, a VIP seat, audience participation galore, a dance-off as well as different performers guest starring during the run.

‘Love’ was the theme for 2016, and there was a lot of it about … except in the hearts of some frightened audience members who worried that they’d be next on stage. (Though if you enter into the spirit of the on-stage challenges, there’s not much to be feared, and often the audience shock the cast with their talents and creativity.)

There’s always a heavy sprinkling of diversity in Pony Panto but Mary Nugent stole the show this year with her banterful exchanges with the mistress of ceremonies and dancing as part of the troupe proving that celebral palsy and a wheelchair don’t impede, but perhaps even enhance, participation and performance.

Live-drawing artist-in-residence Melanie perched up in an eyrie at the back of the stage, projecting her superb sketches onto the wall. With a reputation for being raucous and rude, the edginess of previous Pony Pantos was a little blunter this year. But this safety created space to savour the company’s new takes on line dancing and roller disco, routines which combined comedy with intelligence.

If you want to let your hair down, laugh out loud at a well choreographed evening of dance-enhanced sketches and music, then check out Pony Panto at The MAC. Most of the remaining shows in the run are already sold out. However, if you hurry there are still some tickets available for the final two shows at 7pm and 9.45pm on Friday 23 December.

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