Peter Buckroyd reviews Cinderella, which plays at the Attic until 7th January
Pantomimes are often advertised as ‘fun for all the family’. In my experience this is rarely the case, but John-Robert Partridge’s production is exactly that. Mike Totton’s script involves most of the conventions that we expect from a good pantomime: a love story, comedy, a duo act, set pieces, ‘behind you!’, ‘oh yes he does’, bad jokes, jokes for the adults which will go right over the heads of the children, scary moments (a ghost), slapstick, drag, song, dance, ad libs (or apparent ones), actors corpsing and a happy ending. Totton, though, wisely chooses to omit one of the pantomime elements that sits very uneasily in the twenty-first century – the Principal Boy played by a girl. None of that nonsense here. I did wonder for a few moments why this Prince Charming, charmingly played by Jack Scott-Walker, should think that what he needed was a wife, but I soon got over this and managed to suppress my desire for psychological authenticity.
The Ugly Sisters, beautifully played by Edward Manning and Andrew Woolley, look gigantic and are as ugly as you can get. I have rarely seen so many gloriously garish, vulgar costume changes; they look really hideous every time they are on stage. Prince Charming and Cinderella (Sophie Whelans) make a sweet pair. Cinderella looks delightful throughout, even in her rags.
Elliott Wallis’s musical score is an inspiration – lots of songs familiar to at least some in the audience and lots of motivation for audience members to sing along. There are some excellent vocals, too. An extremely well sung duet between Prince Charming and Dandini (Pete Meredith) was for me the musical highlight of each of the two acts.
John-Robert Partridge as Buttons excels in engaging the interest and involvement of the children in the audience culminating in the invitation to have photographs taken with the cast at the end of the show and in encouraging audience participation.
If you manage to get tickets for the last few performances, make sure you enjoy the ridiculous make-up routine the Twelve Days of Christmas routine, the military style scene changes, the creative coach and spot the many topical and Stratford jokes. And don’t miss my favourite line: ‘A fairy in the theatre? Who would have thought it.’
You won’t often see a more energetic production. It is truly heart-warming. Let’s hope that Cox’s Yard soon manages to mend its heating system, too.