It doesn’t take much to get me feeling festive. The first viewing of the best ever Christmas film, Elf, is the natural starting point. Decorating the tree with the kids and having a glass of sherry with compulsory mince pie also help. But arguably, the icing on the Christmas cake has to be going to see a Pantomime.
Years ago, when I was a child, it was a very rare treat indeed to go to the theatre. My parents could barely afford it, so the few occasions we actually made it were thrilling.
We may have been up in the gods at the Palace Theatre in Manchester, and the performers mere dots on the stage below, but it was the closest thing to magic I had ever experienced.
I still carry that childlike thrill with me, and even though it’s not such a rare treat for my own kids to go to the theatre it’s always a total pleasure for me.
You can imagine my delight at getting the chance to review Cinderella at The Lyric in Hammersmith. I took the kids but yes, I admit it, I was the one who was most excited.
Based in the kingdom of West-Six (W6 geddit?) it’s the traditional tale, but this Cinders has more than the usual set of problems to contend with (no ballgown, no transport, a wicked stepmother) – she also has two left feet.
Julie Atherton (Sister Act), with an incredible singing voice, makes Cinders charming and quirky – very sweet but not sickly.
Another knock-out singer is the versatile Sophia Nomvete who was also in last year’s Lyric pantomime Aladdin. She was kept very busy on stage with two great performances as both the Fairy Godmother and Dandini.
The wonderful actress/comedian and Great British Bake Off presenter Mel Giedroyc (pic below) made a scary but very funny wicked Stepmother. If you want to see someone thoroughly reveling in her role (with much mention of her muffins and baps) this is it – a total joy to watch.
The ever-popular Steven Webb returns once again to The Lyric, this time in the role of Buttons. He produces everything you want from the main narrator/ ‘MC’, a totally assured performance from a very personable actor who knows how to instantly win the audience over and get everyone involved.
Overall it’s a wonderfully strong cast, the step ‘sisters’ Munt and Ugger (Hammed Animashaun and David Ganley) provide the slapstick and ensure there is enough audience participation. The Prince, played in true Hugh Grant style by William Ellis, (currently also to be seen in the new Great Expectations movie as Compeyson) is foppish fun.
Timing is everything and some Panto’s can be rather indulgent bringing too many children onto the stage for too long – a vital ingredient admittedly, but one which can really slow the pace of the show. Fortunately, writers, Joel Harwood and Morgan Lloyd-Malcolm, have got it just right at the Lyric and this section is well-integrated into the drama and it all moves nicely.
With some great voices and tunes, plenty of corny jokes/innuendo and slapstick, and a cast all full of energy and enthusiasm – this show ticks all the boxes.
I loved the fact that it’s for kids and adults – lots of jokes the little ones won’t get (fnaar, fnaar), but offering plenty of childish amusement for the grown-ups.
It had singing, dancing, an audience singalong and sweeties being thrown out too, all classic Panto, marvellous.
If you can’t make this one there will definitely be a Panto at a theatre near you – I hope you get to see it and have as much fun as I did.
Read The Guardian’s Lyn Gardner on why Panto should be taken seriously