FamilyFestive 15/16North East & YorkshirePantomimeReview

Cinderella – Gala Theatre, Durham

Writer: Neil Armstrong and Paul Hartley
Director: Neil Armstrong and Paul Hartley
Choreographer: Georgina Mannifield
Reviewer: Anna Ambelez


The stage opens onto a fairy tale forest setting the scene for the most classic of fairy tales, Cinderella. A timeless tale of rags to riches, the earliest recorded version dates from AD 850 and it is still going strong. After all the characters are introduced, we are transported to the village where the story begins.

While Prince Charming’s (James Hedley) lack of stature is the butt of various good humored jokes, his pitch-perfect singing and electrical guitar playing is excellent. His singing complements Cinderella’s (Hazel Pude) beautifully, especially in their duet, A Thousand Years.

The ugly sisters Betty (John Carter) and Sweaty (Paul Dunn) provide the opportunity for plenty of hissing and booing, enjoyed by all. Sweaty is obviously so called as he leaps about the stage taking every opportunity to be a larger than life character. Buttons (Paul Hartley) the resident Gala pantomime comic, the boy next door, never fails to lighten up the stage every time he appears. Dan Meanie (Neil Armstrong) the resident pantomime baddie, raises lots and boos and hisses with every appearance; wonderful to have the goodies outnumbering the baddies, with the moral “…every good turn gets its reward”.

The lighting (Graham Rushton) is exceptional, bringing scenes to life; adding that magical touch to capture the audience. The duet number between Cinderella and Price Charming is stunning, with the live band always a bonus. There are some great numbers like Johnny B Goode and Shut Up and Dance. An array of colorful sets does not disappoint with layered drops giving depth and interest, adding warmth and atmosphere to the scenes. It is also good to see choreographer (Georgina Mannifield) using mature dancers alongside the juniors.

It is one thing to have all the essential pantomime ingredients, but it needs someone to bring it all to life and here there is not one, but two good fairies; Armstrong and Hartley, a script writers marriage made in pantomime heaven. They have both appeared in the Gala Pantomime for some years and this experience has developed into a successful partnership of writing and directing. There are innovative touches like a huge black furry bear, a fox hunt where the fox is saved, hot air balloon, beautiful real ponies, (who can resist?) and making Dandini, Dan Meanie is a stroke of genius, with his touch of steampunk. The fairy godmother (Sally Collets) is more of a fairy friend than a godmother, as she and Cinderella look more like sisters, forming a nice relationship to which children can relate.

The slosh scene is indeed sloshy with plenty of it, which everyone loves, characters falling all over, losing their wigs and causing mayhem in general.

Cinderella’s costume change is seamless, with the carriage and ponies surely one of the best ever. It’s a shame its appearance is so brief and not on stage for longer, or even used again.

Most of the shows left are sold out, so you had better rush and book now if you want to see a traditional, family pantomime at an affordable price.

Runs until 3 January 2016 | Image: Contributed

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One Comment

  1. I actually disagree – the lighting falls way short of the standard over recent years. Otherwise, this review, and the show, is spot on!

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