In 2020, in response to the closure of theatres due to the pandemic, Peter Duncan (former Blue Peter presenter and legendary pantomime Dame) decided to produce Jack & The Beanstalk in his own garden to be streamed online as Christmas entertainment for families. It was so popular that it achieved cinema release.
This year he has followed it up with “Cinderella” and I have to say, it surpassed my expectations.
The pantomime is filmed in a house (Hardup Mansion), garden and surrounding woodland and also on location at a lavish stately home type property.
It took a little getting used to at first as an outdoor pantomime is unusual, plus it was filmed in the summer, but I soon got used to that and enjoyed the different settings and imaginative way it was staged. The house was a perfect set and the actors seemed at home (pardon the pun).
The Fairy Godmother (Sarah Moss) opened the panto with rhyming dialogue – and a rather bizarre magic wand which I’m sure was an umbrella in a past life.
Buttons (Henry Roadnight) arrived at Hardup Mansion on a scooter – this was a contemporary touch which really worked and there were others along the way. Buttons talked to the camera and we had our first “oh yes you are” moment. This was one of many opportunities for audience participation and if you were watching with children they would have had just as many chances to shout and join in as they would in a theatre with a live production. (I was very impressed with Buttons’ rap, executed with aplomb and with good use of the bannisters!)
There is every single pantomime element in there that you could wish for: songs, humour for children and adults, plenty of “it’s behind you” and “oh no it isn’t” and two of the ugliest sisters ever! The interaction between the two ugly sisters (Peter Duncan as Billy Eyelash and Adam Price as Ariana Shande) is hilarious. I don’t know how they managed not to laugh. They were brilliant – grotesque, mean and totally awful….just perfect! They quite often loomed up to the camera together asking the audience if they were booing – again brilliant for children and hilarious for the adults.
There was a slapstick scene with Baron Hardup (Ian Talbot) and Buttons which was clearly an homage to Laurel & Hardy and was perfectly executed in true Stan and Ollie style.
A little twist at the end is that Cinderella (Lucy-Jane Quinlan) turns down the Prince’s (Sam Ebenezer) proposal unless he complies with a long list of conditions – including banning all meat eating and getting rid of fake news – another little contemporary humorous touch but it worked and didn’t hit you between the eyes with a very laboured sledgehammer.
A lot of the singing and dancing took place outdoors and in woodland which must have been a challenge at times, but everyone took it in their stride and made it look effortless. I’m beginning to think that outdoor pantomimes could become the new normal!
The closing song was an instant catchy number which I’m still singing and all the cast and ensemble did this together, leaving you with a fabulous feeling of fun and warmth.
The choreography and singing were spot on and very impressive and the acting and interaction between the characters was excellent. The direction was superb – everything was very fluid and smoothly done with seamless changes from one scene to the next.
This production was a bit weird and a lot wonderful and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I hope it becomes a pantomime tradition which Peter Duncan and the amazing creative team will maintain for years to come. Oh yes, I do (come on, you knew that was inevitable).
’Cinderella’ had a red carpet premiere at Everyman King’s Cross on Saturday 4th December. It will then roll out to 100 Showcase cinemas across the UK, then a week later VUE, Light Cinemas, Omniplex and 12 independents.
Just like last year, the show is also available to schools, Scouts & Guide groups, community groups and care homes at special rates. http://www.pantoonline.co.uk/
Reviewer: Nicky Lambert
Reviewed: 7th December 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★