Tuesday, May 28

Cinderella – Hull New Theatre

I don’t know what panto favourite, Neil Hurst, had eaten before taking to the Hull New Theatre stage on Sunday evening, but whatever it was had really oiled his make-‘em-laugh muscles – he was in top comedic form.

As Buttons, in the age-old favourite, Cinderella, Hurst was on stage for most of the evening, delighting what looked like a sell-out theatre, from curtain up.

And what a curtain! Featuring just one word – the panto’s title – dripping in glitter, bedazzling and making us impatient for what was to come, as did the images swirling around the walls and ceiling.

The plot of this fairytale needs no explanation, so I’ll keep it short – poor girl, Cinderella or “Cinders” (Rebekah Lowings), mistreated by her two Ugly Sisters, Hernia (Peter Peverley) and Verruca (Jack Land Noble), meets and marries Prince Charming (Lee Mead), thanks to her fairy godmother (Olivia Mitchell).

Cinderella’s friend, Buttons, and the prince’s manservant, Dandini (Spin), complete the picture.

These seven talented performers, aided and abetted by an energetic ensemble and musicians, worked tirelessly to keep us entertained.

And the glue holding them all together on the night was Hurst, aka Buttons.

The aforementioned glittery curtain rose to reveal an equally glittery stage setting – everything, from buildings to forests, sparkled, catching the light from the myriad spotlights.

The only drab scene on the night was the scullery where Cinders is set to work by her ugly sisters.

The drab was short-lived, however, as, thanks to the Fairy Godmother, a pumpkin in the scullery turned into a silver coach, drawn by two real white ponies.

Prancing “unicorns” and dancing pumpkins added to the fairytale element (as did all the incredible costumes on the night).

And when Cinders’ dress turned into a ball-gown before our very eyes, I heard one youngster behind me ask “how did they do that?”.

Talking of youngsters, a huge chunk of the audience was made up of children and, boy, did they make their presence known. I loved hearing their vocal participation and how they hung on every mischievous word Buttons said, as well as making their feelings known whenever the Ugly Sisters appeared.

Of course, this is panto, so innuendos are a must, but I’m sure the more risqué (for want of a better word) comments went right over the heads of most of the young ‘uns. There was no avoiding Buttons’ water pistol, though, aimed at the front rows.

Also, a must are the boos and hisses, and plenty of those were directed – rightly so – at Hernia and Verruca.

The sisters’ costumes, though hideous, had a beauty of their own and have to be seen to be believed. My favourites were the pair’s pink poodle and black and white Dalmatian get-ups at the panto’s beginning, with “dogs” to match.

That set the tone for the rest of the night; I just couldn’t stop laughing at the sisters in whatever outfit they appeared in.

With those two and Buttons, my chuckle muscles have never worked so hard.

Mead, winner of the BBC’s Any Dream Will Do contest, brought a wee bit of sanity to proceedings, with his loud, tuneful singing voice; as did stage and screen star, Lowings, as Cinders, whose equally tuneful voice made them both a pleasure to listen to while also giving us a chance to catch our breath.

A happy ending was always on the cards (not for Buttons, who showed a rare grumpiness as he snatched his talking teddy out of Cinders’ arms). Talking of which, the teddy really did vocalise – no strings or human arm up its rear end. Fascinating.

So, all in all, a fantastic, magical two hours. Neil Hurst, I salute you – oh yes I do (sorry, couldn’t resist).

Running until Sunday, January 7th, 2023; 1pm or 2pm matinees and 5pm or 7pm evening performances. Check relevant dates. Tickets from £17.50. Call (01482) 300306 or visit www.hulltheatres.co.uk

Reviewer: Jackie Foottit

Reviewed: 17th December 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.