Review: Castellana, Cardiff Castle Christmas Festival

Rachel Howells reviews a brand-new show with an emphasis on Burlesque as Castellana joins the line-up of Cardiff Castle Christmas Festival.

A brand-new show and must-see adult event, bustling with cabaret style acts, Castellana, enthralled it’s audience at Cardiff Castle Christmas Festival’s Spiegeltent on Sunday evening.

A wondrous theatrical experience, enhanced by its unique surroundings, Castellana has its roots and mysticism in that of the travelling entertainers of the 19th century and is well suited to the environment of the Spiegeltent.

The Spiegeltent’s themselves were travelling dance halls, Bohemian entertainment salons and wine tasting marquees during the late 19th Century. Today the Spiegeltent in the grounds of Cardiff Castle retains a warm, intimate atmosphere lending itself magically to Castellana as it transforms into the mysterious Castell Annwn. Here, audiences experience weird and wondrous sights, sounds and sensations of mythical, magical Wales, capably guided by the charismatic Master of the Castle, Ian Stroughair, Mysterious Magician, Alex Phelps and singing hostess Ana played by Vikki Bebb. As the audience learn more about the magical Castell Annwn from the trio, we also meet the spectacular acts that live there.

These include Angie Sylvia known as The Fire Fox who has a long-established career as a dancer performing and choreographing work for Imelda May, Lady Gaga, Tinie Tempah, and Katy B. Angie wows with a fire-centric burlesque which includes eating fire as she burns her clothes while wearing them.  Angie’s second act was equally as mesmerising as she wore a giant balloon (if little else!)

Brett Rosengreen, The Rippling Cowboy, demonstrated why he is currently one of the most sought-after male burlesque performers in the UK and Australia.  The artistry of his dancing along with the help of a few bottles of bourbon had all the audience roaring along with him. 

Yann Le Blanc & Sophie Northmore’s magnificent Hand-To-Hand balancing routine showed immense strength and skill in all their movements. Yann is a circus performer with over 15 years’ experience and displayed further strength and control ability with his marvellous aerial hoop routine. Further to this was Sophie’s captivating solo balancing act on top of a giant rotating disco ball.

Flying Man, Joe Keeley is an exceptional aerial act that twists, tumbles, and turns his way from the high cable at the centre of the Spiegeltent.  Joe’s charisma lights up the stage with breath-taking displays of both skill and artistry.

While Didi Derriere captivates us with her bewitching Burlesque homages to Madonna and Marilyn Monroe, Fancy Chance aka Veronica Thompson certainly raised a few eyebrows as she spun from the centre of The Spiegeltent in a spectacular hair-hanging routine.

Gentleman Juggler Florian Brooks maintained the style and look of Fred Astaire as he delighted the audience juggling several clubs as they changed colour.

Completely immersive, the sheer energy and action of Castellana pulled us in on several occasions. There were moments when several of the stage participants ran in and around the audience too, playfully teasing us as they switched our Christmas hats or making a startling entrance to the stage from the sidelines. Certainly, there are several elements of Castellana which challenge our views on believing what we see or what we thought we should be seeing, but ultimately making up a unique evening of unmissable entertainment.

Go and see Castellana, you won’t regret it!

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