Adapted by Helga Wood from a script by George Wood drawing script inspiration from Peter Denyer, Paul Hendy, Eric Potts and George Wood
Plummer Wood Productions
Shaw Theatre, London
Last seen at the Shaw Theatre in 2008, Cinderella returns to the venue after an absence of four years courtesy of new pantomime company Plummer Wood Productions.
Situated in the heart of Euston, the production draws heavily on its surroundings with the Ugly Sisters arriving at Hardup Hall from Paris via the Eurostar in neighbouring St. Pancras. As they make their way through the audience, wheelie suitcases in hand, the terrible twosome cause merriment galore scouring the audience for a new boyfriend on the look out for ‘hot tottie’.
In the roles of Sharon and Nicole, Chris Dennis and Miles Western are a wickedly wonderful pair dressed in an array of outlandish costumes from luminous velour tracksuits to ocean-inspired ball gowns. Clownish in nature, the two tread the line between comedy and cruelty well, with the ticket tearing scene particularly effective due to the Sisters’ threat of making Baron Hardup's life hell should Cinderella refuse to do as they say. Not only does this demonstrate Cinderella's love for her father as she slowly tears up her invitation, it enables the performers to expose the Sisters’ manipulative side, thus greatly increasing their sense of villainy.
Although the pantomime’s Villains, it falls upon the gruesome twosome to take the lead in driving the show’s comedy as Christopher Chandler takes a more laid-back approach to his Buttons, weighting the Comic more in the realm of endearing friend than silly schoolboy. This results in many of Chandler’s scenes lacking energy and it falls upon Jonathan Stuart’s eccentric Dandini with perfect comic timing to provide some vitality, much helped by the character’s material, including an impromptu outburst of "The Fox (What Does The Fox Say?)".
Songs such as "Beneath Your Beautiful" and "Let Her Go", sang tunefully by Neil Moors’s Prince Charming and Aimie Atkinson’s Cinderella, populate the second act, but the show’s overuse of ballads does cause the production to drag somewhat up until an electric Ghost Gag that has children screaming at the tops of their voices. The use of four characters and two ghosts makes the panto staple’s final payoff even more rewarding as both Ugly Sisters get their comeuppance in a double scaring, complete with many a double take, which has the audience howling with delight.
Helga Wood’s fairytale sets transform the Shaw Theatre into a winter wonderland as the audience is transported from the village to the palace via a snowy forest. Great use is made of the venue’s small stage, but sometimes less is more and, although pantomime babes, dancers and Shetland ponies are traditional, the lack of space does inhibit Stuart Sweeting’s choreography, often rendering it simplistic.
Packed full of impressions from Francine Lewis as the Fairy Godmother and strong vocals from her fellow cast members, Cinderella is an aural delight. With next year’s production already announced as Aladdin, a stronger sense of slapstick and an even greater injection of energy will ensure Plummer Wood Production’s second Shaw pantomime is truly magical.
Reviewer: Simon Sladen