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The panto that goes wrong but was so right!

by Peter Buckroyd

Cinderella, Tread the Boards

The Tread the Boards performers staged their production on an outdoor stage at Stratford Park and Ride. Photo: Mark Williamson. P18/12/20/8898. (43752142)
The Tread the Boards performers staged their production on an outdoor stage at Stratford Park and Ride. Photo: Mark Williamson. P18/12/20/8898. (43752142)

Christmas in Stratford is never Christmas without Tread the Boards’s pantomime, so it was with great excitement that in a year when we have been deprived of live cultural entertainment we were finally going to a live event, having booked for Christmas Eve.

At first we expected to take our own chairs, blankets and faux fur coats and to make socially distanced groups in a hotel car park. Then the designated hotel closed and said they could not host the event. Eventually Stratford Racecourse - as ever flexible and imaginative - said it would host the event. Then the police decided that it could only be a drive-in event but that was ok with the racecourse. So performances went ahead the day before Christmas Eve and the venue was secured over Christmas. And then overnight it rained. And rained. And rained. And when the company turned up for their Christmas Eve performances the racecourse was several inches under water. Undaunted, aided by amazingly quick responses of councillors, the event was moved to Stratford’s park and ride and the Stage Bus arrived just under an hour before their first performance.

So this almost incredible tale of resilience and persistence resulted in live drive-in performances. Amazing. I’m sure that John-Robert Partridge, artistic director of Tread the Boards Company will tell the whole story of triumphs over adversity soon.

So we got a pantomime and what fun it was. The costumes for Cinderella were even more elaborate than usual and Pete Meredith and Robert Moore were appropriately hideous as the Ugly Sisters and their final UK and EU costumes bang up to date. Joe Deverell-Smith was a dashing Prince Charming who could sing as well as seduce, Matilda Bott lovely and feistier than often as Cinderella and John-Robert Partridge as Buttons entertaining with his range of topical jokes as references. Charis McRoberts as the Fairy Godmother (and Dandini) kept the somewhat truncated plot clear while Elliott Wallis’s live music kept it all going at a cracking pace.

The annual Twelve Days of Christmas routine was as slick and funny as ever, Cinderella’s transformation from cleaning togs to ballgowned beauty a moment of magic and the contemporary allusions and masses of extended word play a delight for the adults.

Despite everything it really was Christmas.

Playing at Tiddington Home Guard Club until tonight (Thursday) and then at Binton Social Club until 3rd January. See Thursday's Herald for panto photo special.

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