It’s hard to believe it’s been a whole year since theatres up and down the country were cancelling pantomimes due to the coronavirus pandemic – Christmas looked decidedly bleaker without the annual festive treat. But thankfully last year there were plenty of online productions that came to our rescue, cheering us up in our own homes. Former Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan brought us the entertaining production Jack and the Beanstalk, and this year returns with everyone’s favourite panto – Cinderella – now streaming online and available to watch in selected cinemas.
Written by Duncan, who directs alongside Ian Talbot, Cinderella is an entertaining take on this classic pantomime. Last year’s production of Jack and the Beanstalk was a triumph, a fresh and exciting panto filmed in Duncan’s own back garden in the midst of a pandemic. A year later and, while Covid-19 is unfortunately still on our minds, this film is a little more adventurous, with a bigger budget and higher production values, resulting in a slick and professional show thanks to Director of Photography/Film Editor Luke Roberts. There’s even enough money in the budget to film on location, with palace scenes filmed in a sumptuous manor and the ball held outside in beautiful woodlands. Peter Duncan’s house again has a starring role and it’s certainly impressive to see how it has been transformed into Cinderella’s house.
While perhaps not quite as strong as last year’s performance of Jack and the Beanstalk – or maybe back then a filmed production was more of a novelty – Cinderella is still a whole lot of fun for the family with familiar pantomime troupes. It’s packed full of silly jokes, singing and dancing, and despite being a filmed production, audience participation is very much encouraged. At times the characters directly address the camera, either speaking to the audience, encouraging them to join in, or – in the case of the Ugly Stepsisters – goading them and it all works a treat. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, most notably a wallpapering scene that wouldn’t look out of place in a Laurel and Hardy sketch and is sure to make even the grumpiest of viewers crack a smile.
The cast look like they’re having a ball (pardon the pun) and all do a great job. Lucy-Jane Quinlan is a sweet Cinderella, with a beautiful voice to match, but it’s refreshing to see a feistier side to Cinders, and a strong female lead in this panto. Henry Roadnight is a somewhat geeky but loveable Buttons, while Sam Ebenezer lives up to his character Prince Charming’s name. Sarah Moss is a likeable Fairy Godmother and Ian Talbot is great as Baron Hardup. But of course the highlight of pantomimes has to be the dame and sure enough Peter Duncan and Adam Price steal the show with their glorious performances of the Ugly Stepsisters Ariana Shande and Billie Eyelash. They’re a brilliant double act, hilarious and repulsive as they attempt to thwart Cinderella’s hopes of getting to the ball. Credit must also go to Wardrobe Master/Costume Makes David Morgan for some larger-than life wigs and bold and colourful costumes which are a feast for the eyes.
Music comes in the form of original songs, and although they’re pleasant enough to listen to and performed well, they’re not particularly memorable, other than a catchy roly-poly song. The inclusion of some more familiar songs may add to the production and give it a slight edge.
There are some scenes, children dressed up as woodland creatures and the appearance of ghosts, which feel a little out of place and disconnected from the main piece. But on the whole Cinderella is an enjoyable production that’s sure to provide a treat this Christmas. It’s also great to see that there are still online productions taking place. And, with some theatres sadly having to cancel performances again this year due to Covid, this is a great way to ensure you keep your kids entertained during the festive season.
To book tickets to Cinderella, visit https://www.pantoonline.co.uk/