Russian Cinders shall go to the ball
Cinderella and the Glass Slipper, Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds (until January 20)The Theatre Royal's version of Cinderella is the first of three Cinders pantos to get under away at East Anglia's professional theatres this Christmas.
Cinderella and the Glass Slipper, Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds (until January 20)
The Theatre Royal's version of Cinderella is the first of three Cinders pantos to get under away at East Anglia's professional theatres this Christmas. It's no surprise that this is the pantomime chosen for the newly restored Royal. The first ever staging of Cinderella was at Covent Garden in 1820, just a year after the wonderful Bury St Edmunds theatre was built.
The great stage clown, Joseph Grimaldi, played the Baroness and later that year Rossini's Cinderella Opera, La Cenerentola, also opened in London. So when the Theatre Royal was young, Cinderella as a theme was all the rage.
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This panto has all the added characters that became popular in late Victorian times - Buttons (Joe Evans), the Ugly sisters (Gregory Ashton and Ben Watson) and Dandini - in this case a Russian female version, Dandinovskyaka (Samantha Killen).
That gives to a clue to the setting director Colin Blumenau has chosen. We're somewhere in frozen Russia in winter, where a snowy forest is no place for a midnight flight from a prince's castle with one foot bare and only a glass slipper on the other.
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The Russian touches create the production's distinctive style with some fine Cossack dance sequences featuring Oliver Watton and Hannah Sade, some crisp openers and some powerful singing from Janet Greaves as the wicked Russian stepmother.
But let's not get too arty. This is very much a children's show complete with Buttons calling out in Russian, doing audience birthdays, and telling jokes which he promises will get worse (and they do!). Meanwhile, the young members of the audience brandish windmill glowsticks, the activity of which is a good measure of attention span.
There are some engaging performances all round, especially Jodie Kumblé as a beguiling Cinderella, a clear voiced and nicely mysterious fairy Godmother (Johanne Murdock) and Gregory Ashton as the Welsh Ugly sister, Gladys Glasnost.
The show has modern musical-style music composed and directed by Anne Marie Lewis Thomas, though I thought there was perhaps a number too many. Painted sets and backcloths somehow look best in old theatres and Kit Surrey's designs, as ever, were just right.
It's a show the audience clearly enjoyed. My only grumble is with the sound. The amplification when I was there was far too powerful in a theatre that is so tiny it needs little more welly than enhancement and balance. But I expect that will be got right.