Good things come to those who wait. In his programme notes, James Haddrell, Executive Director of the Greenwich Theatre, states that Cinderella "really is the pantomime that we've all been waiting to produce." It is Andrew Pollard's sixth pantomime for the theatre, and as well as being the nation's favourite tale, it has to be the theatre's greatest panto to date.
It is difficult for an actor to play Ugly and Dame equally as well as each other as the two roles require vastly different approaches, but Pollard pulls this off superbly. Alongside his comedy partner, Paul Critoph, the Ugly Sisters, Dannii and Cheryl, delight and disgust the audience with their nasty antics; there's plenty of innuendo there for the adults, and plenty of slapstick and silliness for the kids.
The Greenwich pantomime always does set pieces well and under Kieron Smith's direction this year's offerings are no disappointment. The audience is treated to a hilarious bathtime sequence, a well executed piece about some magic punch and a delightful haunted bedroom scene complete with whoofunpuffs, visual double entendre and even a skeleton.
A lot of love goes into the Greenwich pantomime and the theatre itself must be one of the friendliest in London. There is a sense of pride in their annual production and this year Cinderella is set firmly in Greenwich with scenes occurring in Greenwich Park and characters referencing the importance of the Royal Observatory. The transformation sequence is especially stunning, and further roots the production in the theatre's location.
Hannah Wilding is a beautiful Cinderella, kind and true, who in the end, with the help of a little fairy magic from Tania Mathurin, finally gets her Prince (played by Luke Kempner). All have strong singing voices and much comedy arises from the oft-mispronunciation of the Prince's name, which, for the record, is Prince Charlemagne of Bohemia.
Although coming across perhaps a little too resentful towards Cinderella at the start, Adam Dougal's Buttons achieves the empathy needed in the role as he establishes a strong bond with his gang, the audience, over pining for his best friend. It is, however, somewhat interesting that the Uglies do not notice Buttons at the beginning of the ball when he announces Cinderella, but do in the subsequent scene when he is wearing the same golden outfit. Are the Uglies and the Baron really that stupid not to add two and two together and realise who Princess Crystal is?
Under the musical directorship of Steve Markwick the three piece band strike up some well-chosen musical numbers which are seamlessly incorporated into the production. Cinderella also benefits from much atmospheric underscoring and a plethora of sound effects that accentuate the show's comic antics.
This year the set is particularly impressive, with the revolve allowing for effortless and quick scene changes to keep the show zipping along. Julie Godfrey's designs capture the essence of Pantoland perfectly, as do her delightful costumes and none are more delightful than the Uglies' majorette outfits, complete with strategically placed pom-poms.
Cinderella is another massive panto-hit for the theatre, with audiences shouting, screaming, booing and cheering loud enough to burst an ear drum as they relish participating in this annual event. One thing's for sure - at the Greenwich panto, everyone has a ball.
Playing until 9th January 2010
Read Simon's interview with Andrew Pollard
Reviewer: Simon Sladen