Cinders explodes onto the stage in this year’s panto-extraordinaire

Cinderella was this year's Marlowe Theatre panto (file image)

Yes, it’s that time again! “Oh no it isn’t!”, I hear you cry! Oh, yes it is!

Yep, the panto has arrived at the Marlowe and its bigger and brighter than ever! This year writer and director, Paul Hendy, has put together an all dancing, all singing, all flying performance of Cinderella complete with real horses, outrageous outfits and a pair of Ugly Sisters that bear no comparison.

A good pantomime must plot a narrow course between complete chaos and excessive seriousness. And this one does so perfectly. Cbeebies Mr Maker, Phil Gallagher’s Buttons is the glue that holds the show together, always on hand when the audience calls for him and always ready with a Margate joke. And the Ugly Sisters – played by the incorrigible but quite excellent duo of Ben Roddy and Lloyd Hollett – are the agents of chaos that keep us on our toes.

The audience loves Buttons

Of course, amidst all of this, Cinderella (Cara Dudgeon) and her Prince Charming (Oliver Watton) must fall in love. In our modern world, love isn’t easy to find. Even Buttons admits to a disastrous Tinder date! However, Cinderella’s fabulous fairy godmother, played with wit and warmth by Corrie’s Sally Lindsay, is on the case.

This is a decidedly modern Cinderella. As Cinderella pines for her Prince, one of the children reminds Cinderella that, as a modern woman, her search for love must be on her own terms. It is a wonderful moment – the bemused Cinderella nods awkwardly, but the point has been made that this fairy tale is down with the #Metoo era.

And there are jokes for all generations. The Ugly Sisters are called Donaldina and Melania (geddit!?) and when they arrive dressed in emojis and hashtags, reeling off their Instagram names, Buttons apologises “Sorry, I just don’t follow you.” (geddit!?).

But aside from all the local references, up-to date humour and political satire, there are moments to warm the heart too. When Cinderella and her Prince first meet, their courting is symbolised beautifully by a quite wonderful aerial silk performance in the background – something I certainly wasn’t expecting at the panto! And the musical numbers are great too, giving Cara Dudgeon an outlet for a wonderful singing voice and Harry Reid’s geyserish Dandini a chance to rap his heart out!

So, if you’re looking for something to get you in the festive spirit and to get the kids screaming with delight look no further than this great production of Cinderella at the Marlowe.

Alex Lister adds…

Pantomime is a bizarre feat to pull off. How do you simultaneously engage with the audience while attempting moments of pathos? How do you produce a slick, note-perfect performance while incorporating the obligatory slip-ups and production errors that make pantomime what it is?

To be honest, I’ve no idea – but somehow Cinderella manages it.

What grabs you as your senses are assaulted with this audio-visual extravaganza is how much energy goes into the performance. It’s relentless – and really very amusing.

The musical numbers had the children out of their seats. Cara Dudgeon’s personal charm as well as considerable musical talent shone through as Cinderella. Oliver Watton, probably didn’t get his part on Hollyoaks through his singing ability, but the music, the dancing and the choreography papered over any cracks in an otherwise solid performance.

Donaldina and Melania, do you follow?

For me, the real stars of the show are ugly sisters Donaldina and Melania. Bouncing puns, cheap gags and barely-concealed innuendo off each other, the fake-breasted pair stole the show. Just beware if you’re sitting in the front few rows…

Hidden gem of the evening was overly-confident eight-year-old Muriel, whose rapping skills were surpassed only by her woke, fem-power elucidation, denouncing any preconceptions that Cinderella might need a Prince to look after her. After all, the modern Cinders only cooks and does the dishes out of choice, alright!

Such progressive views were somewhat frustrated by traditional jibes towards some of Kent’s less salubrious vicinities; inbreeding is expected in Sheppey and in Gravesend, 13-year-old teenagers are always smoking in front of their kids. But the audience didn’t mind a bit.

Four-year-old James in row J said: “my favourite was Buttons, but I also liked the ghosts.

“Can we come again tomorrow?”

Journal rating:

Get blown away by this sensational, gag-filled, seasonal extravaganza.


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