Tuesday, May 28

Cinderella – Edinburgh People’s Theatre

It’s that time of the year again and Edinburgh People’s Theatre’s panto this season is Cinderella.  It’s the classic story, but with a few extra characters so that as many company members as possible can get their moment in the spotlight.

The show opens with a reminder that we can boo, cheer, and shout out because this is a pantomime.  This helps the audience to overcome any initial shyness and participate right from the start.  Little reminders of theatre etiquette, done humorously, are a great way of getting the audience on side.

Cinderella’s stepsisters, Mattie and Hattie, played by Mandy Black and Gemma Dutton, are a lot of fun in their garish costumes and wigs. The shameless man-chasers enter through the auditorium, all the better to trade insults across, and with, the audience. Claire Morand is suitably disdainful as their snooty mother, Baroness Beaujoulais, using her French accent to good effect, and Gordon Braidwood is perfectly world-weary as the baron.

The arch villain is the Duke of Verucca, gleefully played by Derek Ward, who also directed the piece. The role seems tailor made for him, and he does a wonderful evil laugh as he wreaks havoc through his wicked schemes, explaining his agenda to the audience, Iago-like. The duke’s servants, Nip (James Sutherland) and Tuck (Poppy Moore) are a great double act and play off each other nicely.

The fairy godmother (Morag Black) is mostly seen in her disguise as an old beggar woman. Her performance is delightful, but I would have liked to see more of her character after her transformation into her magical persona.

Buttons is not as central to the story as in some versions, but Kevin Edie provides some great entertainment, and his singing is wonderful.  Buttons teams up with the resourceful Kathy (a strong performance by Kelly Edie) in the second act, and the pair make a great team onstage.

Paul Reakes’s script includes an amusing sub-plot. The tyrannical Duke has been ruling the kingdom, and filling his own pockets, in the absence of Prince Charming (Joanna Meiklejohn). On his return, the prince develops amnesia after being hit on the head by the duke and goes to work for the Baroness. The evil Duke enlists his foppish nephew Archie (the hilarious Al Brown) to take the prince’s place, as a puppet king. The Prince and Cinderella (Lynsey Spence) make an adorable couple, but will the prince regain his memory, and confront his usurper?

The ball scene is great fun, with a medley of songs and dances (including my party favourite, YMCA) giving the impression of a whole evening of partying. The second act features a lot of farcical scenes involving characters hiding from each other, looking for each other, and generally running across the stage looking daft.

The musical numbers were impeccable. Choreographer Mandy Black, and musical director Barrie Simcock, have done a fantastic job, with everyone on stage moving with precision and sending a joyful energy out into the room.

The lighting design, by Rob Fuller and Mandy Black, was a delight, with disco balls and colourful effects filling the room with magic and wonder. The costumes, by Carol Caldwell and her team, were a riot of colour, from the garish dresses worn by the sisters to the cute tunics which allowed the prince to show some leg, and the folk wear dresses worn by the townspeople.  The duke’s costumes are mostly black, with a steampunk influence, and contrast with everyone else’s jolly outfits.

Buttons gets everyone up on their feet, singing and dancing along, and there are plenty of opportunities for the audience to join in.  All the old jokes are there too – I heard several of the exact same jokes during another version of Cinderella last week – all part of the fun and tradition of pantomime.

This is exactly the kind of light hearted frolic that brings a bit of extra sparkle to the Christmas season. I enjoyed every minute.

Reviewer: Wendy McEwan

Reviewed: 20th December 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.