Godalming Borough Hall
A relative newcomer to the land of pantomime, Godalming’s professional pantomime, created by Wysch Productions, is back at The Borough Hall for a third year. Following the success of Jack and the Beanstalk and Beauty and the Beast, 2021’s title is the ever-popular Cinderella and her famous glass slipper adorns all of the marketing material decorating the foyer and bar.
In this leading role is third-year Guildford School of Acting student Stephanie Costi, who with a crystal-clear voice is an utterly enchanting Cinderella. As her nervous and slightly haughty Prince, Joseph Foyster is a good match bringing humour as well as romance, exuding Jack Whitehall vibes.
Bringing the two lovebirds together is a fierce Fairy Godmother who, rather than playing a largely passive role, moves the plot forward by interacting with both the Prince and Buttons as well as testing Cinderella’s kindness. This gives the sparky Emily Cochrane plenty of opportunity to bring comedy and flair to the character as the part broadens to incorporate traditional elements of Dandini and the Dame’s troublemaking.
As Cinderella’s unlucky-in-love best friend Buttons, Clark James is beautifully enthusiastic but never too over-the-top in one of Pantoland's harder characters to convey. His heartbreak is largely downplayed and, in the absence of a ‘poor Buttons’ type song or front of tabs monologue, the script bounces along without any moments of real pathos for him. Pantomime purists can argue for themselves whether this necessary or not but without, it Buttons becomes a rather one-dimensional comedy character than the bitter-sweet one he has the potential to be.
The story wouldn’t be complete without the inclusion of Cinderella’s stepsisters and, although billed as ‘The Ugly Stepsisters’, it would be fairer to describe them as evil or cruel given the fabulous outfits and legs on show. Josh Bamling (Astra) and Christian Andres (Zeneca) gossip and flirt their way through the plot, revelling in their mean status as the boos intensify. Their rendition of "Uptown Funk" has some great moments of comedy and the two confidently handle expected, and in some cases unexpected, audience interaction with some witty one-liners.
The principal cast of six are supported by Laura Kent and Elli Hosier who appear as villagers, footmen and sprites.
Andrew Pollard’s script contains all of the classic elements of a traditional Cinderella including the tearing up of Cinderella’s ticket, the Ugly Sisters getting lost in the woods and Buttons requesting that everyone join his gang, with a call and response set-up early in act one. This is a well-paced production with musical numbers carefully spaced, however the two comedy set pieces involving the stepsisters taking a bath and the magic punchbowl lack some energy and, even if well-rehearsed, some faked spontaneity could be added for some of the audience shout out sections. There is also a difference between throwaway one-liners and thrown-away one-liners and a few of the cast will need to stay disciplined across the run as a few lines have already been lost due to speed of delivery.
Overall, this is an enjoyable Cinderella with plenty of fun and interaction. Special mention to whoever chose the ambitious "Proper Coffee Pot" house song which is a challenge for even the most eloquent adult! As promised, the Godalming panto delivers magic, romance and laughs in a setting that I’m sure will conjure many childhood memories for those grown-ups taken to village hall pantomimes in their younger years. The people of Godalming shall go to the ball!
Wysch Productions is again offering a Pay What You Can scheme at The Borough Hall, Godalming, to help those who would not otherwise be able to attend a pantomime this year due to financial restraints. Details are available via the Godalming Panto web site, social media, or the box office (01483 361101).
Reviewer: Amy Yorston