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Review: Castellana at the Spiegeltent, Cardiff Castle

Featuring world-class performers and dazzling cabaret stars

Pictured L-R: Brett Rosengreen, Joe Keeley and Didi Derriere

An absolutely jaw-dropping and never before seen show has arrived at Cardiff Castle for the festive season – and this is what it was like.

Castellana is one of three shows that form part of the Cardiff Castle Christmas Festival series running until 1stJanuary 2023. Think a cross between the circus and burlesque with a cast of talented Welsh performers, with Castellana slap bang in the middle.

Spiegeltent, Cardiff Castle

The enchantment starts long before the entrainment begins as you approach the weird and wonderful Spiegeltent in the grounds of Cardiff Castle. If you’ve visited recently, it’s not hard to miss, with its rounded canopy and somewhat grand frontage that makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.

Spiegeltent, Cardiff Castle

The exquisiteness continues as you head inside to take your seats, it feels as special as it looks – there is a quaint oldie worldly sense to the entire place, which is breathtaking. Everyone is fully in character, and the staff are just as dressed up as the performers with a 1920s vibe.

Spiegeltent, Cardiff Castle

The tent itself is very charming with its wooden interior, cut mirrors, canvas, leaded glass, and detailed in velvet brocade. Only a handful of these special and legendary tents remain in the world and The Fortuna, owned by Dutch company Van Rosmalen, is one of the most beautiful, playing host to some of the world’s greatest performers and musicians.

What strikes you is the intimacy of it all.  The seats are closely packed together and lead right up to the stage areas – so there is no hiding at Castellana from your evening’s host Ian Stroughair, aka Velma, Master of the Castle.

Spiegeltent, Cardiff Castle

The seats are only slightly tiered, but you get a good all-round viewing angle from most locations. If you do have someone taller than you seated directly in front of you, your view may be obscured. One of our only criticisms is that there are a small number of seats with an obstructed view. Luckily, the majority of the performances take place on a stage that stretches out and into the audience, but for anything that begins or ends on the stage closest to the curtain is hindered.

What is Castellana?

We don’t want to give too much away as we feel this may spoil the surprise and fascination with what it has to offer, but we will give you a taste of what to expect and you’ll have to visit if you want to judge for yourselves.

Alex Phelps and Vikki Bebb

Underpinning the evening’s acts is a story set in the magical mystical Welsh world of Annwn, which is filled with intrigue and suspense. The fair maiden of Castell Annwn – Anna – is played by Vikki Bebb with her comedic lover played by Alex Phelps (CBeebies). They both play their parts extremely well and I’m little embarrassed to admit it, but I did for a second think “Anna” was part of the audience. However, as soon as she warmed up her vocals, we recognised her from Tiger Bay the Musical, Wales Millennium Centre – a sensational vocal artist.

Ian Stroughair / Velma Celli

What can we say about the host of the evening, Ian Stroughair. The West End superstar is exactly what we needed, arriving and bursting out on stage the hit song “Let Me Entertain You” to get the crowd going . The alter ego Velma Celli, playing Master of the Castle and Owl Master, kept things spicy with quick wit and lustrous charm. It was quite clear who was running the show on the night – and Velma did a great job of managing hecklers.

Angie Sylvia

Angie Sylvia – famed worldwide for her Fire Fox performance and fire eating, certainly kept things hot and pulses racing. She returns to the stage later in the evening for a very intriguing and entertaining bubble set. We have no idea how she does it, but it’s very entertaining to say the least.

Fancy Chance (Veronica Thompson). Credit: Natalie Johnson Rolley

Fancy Chance, aka Veronica Thompson is arguably one of the show’s most multi-talented performers. Fancy takes her chances to showcase her hair hanging talent – one of few performers in the world actively doing so outside of a three-ring circus. Later in the show, watch out for her return as she shows off even more talents and personality with her Prince rendition.

Brett Rosengreen

Brett Rosengreen – known as the rippling (and naked) cowboy came riding out on stage with his sexy burlesque performance, much to the enjoyment of the audience. He is known to show off the funny side of burlesque with his tongue in cheek performance, poking a little fun at himself and others that leaves women and men alike entertained.

Didi Derriere

Didi Derriere, known to be one of the UK’s best and hottest burlesque dancers, stole the show with her iconic Madonna tribute. Bringing a sense of class and sass, the professionally trained Didi returns later on in the evening sporting her famed Marilyn Monroe look to “Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend”. Again, an act that the crowd goes wild for.

Florian Brooks

Florian Brooks, aka the Gentleman Juggler brings really something different, something which we’ve not witnessed before. Others have certainly tried to pull it off, but Florian is at another level. Florian has perfected the act of dance and tricks with pin-sharp movement. The sheer elegance of the man combined with his incredible talents will leave you wondering how he does it.

Yann LeBlance and Sophie Northmore

Yann LeBlance and Sophie Northmore team up for the most mesmerising hand-to-hand performance display. Working together, Yann and Sophie combine their many years of circus and acrobatic experience to create a show-stopping act. There are oohs and aahs from the audience as Yann spins and flips Sophie in what looks like pure weightlessness. They move as one to create an elegant and perfectly crafted swing and balancing act.

Yann LeBlanc

They return later in the show, individually, to bring their own acts featuring Yann – the man in the hoop. Yann very courageously spins the hoop while inside it and does a number of tricks and spins, leaving the audience gasping as he does it.

Sophie Northmore

Sophie returns with this spectacular spinning ball display. The combination of lighting and single hand-balancing talent is really something. Watch out the ball rotates and Sophie maintains absolute balance before moving into her next position.

Joe Keeley

Joe Keeley brings a death-defying aerial display to Cardiff with his Flying Man performance. I can’t even imagine the amount of skill and sheer strength that this must take, but prepare to be spellbound as Joe takes to new heights to show off his incredible talent. Joe’s act leaves you in awe of his achievements as he twists and unwraps himself from the top of the Spiegeltent. Well done Joe, I’d rather you than me with those heights!

Castellana at Cardiff Castle Christmas Festival. Cast. Photo by Natalie Johnson Rolley

So this Christmas, if you are looking for a show that is different and unique then, Castellana will fit the bill with good fun entertainment. You will be left on the edge of your seat, for lots of reasons, with its eye-peeling acts of outrageousness and unbelievable talent. You won’t know where to look in this truly captivating act of entertainment.

The Cardiff Castle Christmas Festival is a wonderful addition to Cardiff’s existing Christmas programme, which includes Cardiff’s Winter Wonderland, Christmas at Bute Park and Cardiff’s Christmas Market. It is created and produced by Richard Perry and John Manders, joint directors of Live under The Stars, whose most recent credits include the recent Cardiff Castle Jubilee Celebration Concert, and the Live Under the Stars Concert series.

Castellana is recommended over 16s, although we feel this better caters for adults due to the naughtiness and bare cheek of some of the acts 😉

To find out more and to book tickets, visit: https://www.thecastle.wales/castellana/