IT’S ALL change at the Bristol Hippodrome for the pantomime this year (repeat after me: ‘Oh No it isn’t!). But for those who have been going along to the Hippodrome for many years as a festive treat, oh yes it is.

The most major change is the absence of familiar face and funny man Andy Ford, who has played an integral role in the Christmas spectacular for several years.

Andy has been replaced with high-profile Aussie (sorry, Kiwi!) stand-up comedian Jarred Christmas, who is known for his regular appearances on rambunctious late-night TV panel shows and at summer festivals rather than any kind of children’s programme – which would certainly have been an altogether safer kind of panto star.

Jarred may have the kind of name to appeal to the little ones, but his character doesn’t really fit with the lovable, cuddly buttons with traditional appeal. His abrupt, unsubtle style left the jokes falling a little flat and such there was a shortage of rapport with the younger members of the audience.

Also gone is the segment which features young audience members being brought up on stage, ostensibly to fill the time while the stage is being set for the grand finale of the wedding ball, but as the ball is now in the middle of the production there’s less time to fill - which means no fiddling about with glasses for a 3D film ‘surprise’ either.

Audience interaction is limited this year – no sing-a-long songs, no get-up-sit-down shenanigans and this does make the pantomime ‘experience’ less fun.

Cinderella (Rhiannon Chesterman) and Prince Charming (Blair Gibson) are relatively unknown in the world of theatre , but they do a decent job and belt out some reasonable cover versions.

Light at the end of the tunnel comes from the wonderful Dandini (Samuel Holmes), who steals the show with his witty asides and one liners, and the ugly sisters, who are the ones who inject a bit of joy into this otherwise fairly lacklustre performance.

But many of those coming along to the pantomime this year are not there for the pantomime ‘experience’ – they are there to see the real stars of the show; Olympic Gold-winning ice dancers Jayne Torville and Christopher Dean, who grace the front of the programme, despite playing neither Cinderella nor Prince Charming.

It’s fair to say that Jayne was not born to act, but she does make a sterling effort as Queen Juniper, the Fairy Godmother, but the pair are first to grace the stage and regularly appear throughout the performance both skating and with lines, and they certainly give value for money - where else will you be able to witness movements from the Bolero performed by these ice skating legends?

They make you wait, teasing you with snippets throughout the show, but it’s well worth it.

The routine, despite being on roller blades, is breathtakingly beautiful and those who were around in 1984 to witness it for the very first time will appreciate it more than ever.

We’ve seen this sparkly set before, but the costumes are good and the ponies are as cute as Buttons. Except Buttons really isn’t that cute.

Cinderella is on at the Bristol Hippodrome until January 8.