Writer: Joseph Gardner Hodges
Director: Jay Gardner Hodges
It is up to Prince Charming to save the day in this small and sweet version of Cinderella, which is jam-packed full of festivity and a great deal of heart, at Canterbury’s Malthouse Theatre.
This production follows the usual pattern for Cinderella, tormented by her nasty stepsisters before falling for Prince Charming. However, what is striking about this show is the attempt to explore a blossoming relationship between Buttons and Dandini, which is a welcome tweak to an otherwise typical retelling of the story.
As Cinderella, Alice Audrey O’Hanlon is successful in creating a sweet yet downtrodden character desperate to escape her sister’s clutches. There is an understatement to her delivery which suits the character, and O’Hanlon is given ample opportunity to show off an impressive vocal range in a number of routines.
Providing much of the production’s family friendly humour is Tim Edwards’ Buttons who is wonderfully goofy throughout. Edwards proves adept at both physical and vocal comedy, with his initial introduction providing an amusing exchange with a malfunctioning ice cream van. This is a ‘clean’ Buttons, which suits the audiences of families the show targets, and Edwards is a treat in the role.
Prince Charming and Dandini, Tatenda Madamombe and Harry F Brown respectively, bounce well off each other as the production’s heartthrobs. Like Cinderella, Madamombe’s Charming is subtle and understated, and this enables the eventual relationship which blossoms between them all the more heartwarming. Brown’s Dandini is as silly as he is loveable and his vulnerability is an interesting addition to the show, which helps to bring genuine warmth to the production.
Natasha Hoeberigs’ Fairy Godmother is a little intense but nevertheless Hoeberigs is suitably commanding as the character and is given more to do than in some other productions, and thrives in these moments, particularly during a powerful Act 1 finale.
As the Hardup Sisters, Joseph Gardner Hodges and Dudley Rogers are suitably nasty and orchestrate successfully the fierce chorus of boos from the audience. As the sisters the pair is a lot of fun and works well together. Hodges’ sister, titled Fanny, does trigger a number of Mrs Slocombe-esque one-liners giving that gentle adult humour to the show.
Cinderella is also supported by a dazzling ensemble with a number of very young performers within it. Despite their age, the ensemble is impressive in their work and helps the performance move slickly along, looking at ease on stage. It is the ensemble who helps to bring the festive cheer out to the audience and reinforce the warm, family friendly atmosphere this show goes for.
The play’s script is a little wobbly with some jokes almost too on the nose, or falling a little flat, and some of the pop songs jammed into the show feel a little forced, but this rarely detracts enough to disrupt the flow or mood of the piece.
This is a production full of heart, warmth and creativity. The young ensemble works tirelessly to bring to life a demanding set of routines, but what makes the show so successful is the level of effort and creativity within its delivery. Snow machines, glitzy costumes and an enormous carriage showcase the effort that has gone into the show, and it is an understated Christmas Cracker perfect for kicking the festive season off for families.
Runs until 2 January 2022