Cinders shall go the ball

Cinderella, Arts Theatre, Cambridge (until January 20) Where theatres produce their own pantomimes it's quite clear they build on home advantage. Performers and writers return, traditions develop and the folk who go for their annual Christmas treat seem to love it.

Ivan Howlett

Cinderella, Arts Theatre, Cambridge (until January 20)

Where theatres produce their own pantomimes it's quite clear they build on home advantage. Performers and writers return, traditions develop and the folk who go for their annual Christmas treat seem to love it. It's true of the New Wolsey, the Theatres Royal at Bury and Norwich, and Eastern Angles.

It's true too of the Arts at Cambridge where it's also a homegrown production. What a wonderfully boisterous reception Cinderella got there. They were cheering with anticipation as the lights went down, shouting and booing with scorn at the Ugly Sisters, and gasping with fear when it looked as of Cinders wasn't going to be a given a chance to try on the glass slipper. The cast was visibly moved by the loud standing ovation.


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Brad Fitt and Scott Ritchie have been writing, directing and choreographing the Cambridge pantos for years, and as the Ugly Sisters this time, they appear in the most gaudy monstrous clothes.

Their Cinderella has many of the panto elements I remember from long ago including a thigh-slapping female Prince Charming (Polli Redston) and Dandini (Ellie Cobb) . The tradition of the panto principal boy was a slightly saucy tradition that grew up in the late nineteenth century when the sight of women in tights was regarded decidedly risqué.

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Another old tradition this company scores with is the set-piece coach and horses scene. Audiences have always been prepared wonder at the ingenuity of stage contraptions. Here, amid swirling mists, a white moving winged horse with an ornate carriage brings the house down.

It's a well cast show - everyone loves Julie Buckfield's Cinders and she's a good singer. Matt Crosby is a real entertainer as Buttons. With Brad Fitt and Scott Ritchie's Ugly Sisters, he carries both the comedy and, in the case of the awful girls, the boos. There's no wicked stepmother, the Sisters are vile enough in their own right. There also a comic powder and slop make-up session, comic ballet scenes at the ball and some rowdy audience singing.

What a clever move it is to cast Helen Lederer. The Fairy Godmother is quite a separate character, so there's opportunity for her come in and deliver some witty one-liners and satirical observations as well as wave her wand about.

What with the Chorus and the well-drilled team of dancing Babes this is a good-humoured and much appreciated panto.

Ivan Howlett

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