Cinderella is seen by many as the epitome of pantomime, but how will this year’s production at Richmond Theatre fare?
Eric Potts provides the script for a show that is thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. The actor and writer has penned a staggering eight pantomimes this Christmas and one might suspect, quite reasonably, that such a formidable output may compromise the quality of his writing. However, although offering nothing too spectacular, the script provides plenty of material for an (for the best part) excellent cast to sink its teeth into.
Crucially it allows for a show that is fast-paced, rarely offering up a dull moment. The great danger with pantomime is, children’s concentration spans being what they are, the ease with which a show can lose an audience. At no point does this happen during this production, and credit must go to director Christopher Dunham for instilling in his cast an attitude that places story as a number one priority.
Not that this takes the fun out of the show. Indeed it is the comic characters that shine, with Gary Wilmot’s Buttons and Ben Redfern’s Dandini providing laughs for children and adults alike.
But it is the ugly sisters, Beatrice and Eugenie, played by Graham Hoadly and Paul Burnham, who really light up the stage. The pair, wearing a series of outrageous costumes courtesy of costume designer Terry Parsons, is alone worth the entrance fee, their energy and wit producing some vintage pantomime moments.
It is a shame that not all the cast is capable of such high standards. The big name in this production is award-winning comedienne Jenny Eclair, who plays the Fairy Godmother. This role may not offer her a huge amount, but she approaches it with such disinterest that she might as well not feature at all. To put it in context, her entire performance is less memorable than a brief cameo appearance by a pair of Shetland ponies.
This is a shame but it is not a critical flaw: this is still impressive pantomime. Kellie Shirley makes a very believable Cinderella, and one that evokes genuine care and concern from the audience. The sets and costumes are marvellous, and there are aspects of the show to be enjoyed by all the family.
Pantomime, when done well, can be a truly magical experience for young children, and for any young families out there, this one is worth the trip.
Cinderella is showing at Richmond Theatre until the 15th January. The box office can be contacted on 0870 060 6651.