‘He’s behind you!’ – the only pantomime cliché missing from this night’s performance of Cinderella. Maybe I just didn’t hear it over my incessant giggling. If you have high expectations of slapstick comedy, cheesy musical numbers and not-quite-suitable-for-children innuendos, you will not be disappointed. Perfect if you’re passing the Theatre Royal and looking for some merriment this Christmas.

There is even rather more nudity than expected for a family-friendly show, but hopefully the younger members of the audience won’t be too traumatised by the sight of Robin Colvill’s bare behind. Or his surprisingly captivating drag act.

 

Now any regular viewers of Eastenders may have concerns over John Partridge’s ability to play a strong male lead. The performance wasn’t exactly butch, but it was certainly well acted and the occasional camp moment was in keeping with the pantomime theme. The whole cast in fact were outstanding, from the comical Grumbleweed duo to the hilarious over-acting of Adam C Booth as the lovable Buttons. Upon hearing the female lead, Aimie Atkinson’s, vocal performance, I was even able to overcome the travesty of (shock horror) a brunette Cinderella.

Part of the charm of pantomime is each performance being different from the last. Slip ups are inevitable and generally add to the humour, and this performance was no exception. The unexpected sexual tension between Prince Charming and Buttons was especially amusing. But through every little mishap, the panto vibe never wavered. A big hand must go to Rick Coates, the Musical Director, and the band, who held the whole night together wonderfully, even during the somewhat original and sporadic rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Audience participation is naturally a large part of pantomime, which was only briefly disrupted by the exceedingly irritating woman in front of me, who insisted on trying to start a round of applause at bizarre times. Not that I don’t appreciate enthusiasm, but really, even the six year olds were capable of following the character’s cues.

No expense was spared when it came to extravagance, from the large number of (impressively speedy) costume changes, to the elaborate set design and props. Despite the flying horse and carriage, the simple yet highly amusing ‘magic’ tricks and the fabulous diva Fairy Godmother, the highlight of the evening was the soap-bubble snow that completely coated the front half of the stalls. Like the majority of the children in the audience I found it magical, but the complete look of disdain on the parents’ faces only added to the hilarity. I almost wished I had been sitting a couple of rows forward to fully experience the snow, but then I would have been next to the lady with the clap (pun intended).

As Fairy Godmother, Sheila Ferguson, so wisely commented, ‘panto is the only time of year an adult can act like an absolute idiot and get away with it’. Hopefully this applies to audience members too, because the more you commit to enjoying the spectacle and maybe being a little immature, the funnier and funnier it becomes. A glass of champagne in the interval also has a similar effect.

Hannah Clay

See Cinderella at Theatre Royal until Sunday 13th January 2013

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