Director and Writer: Paul Hendy
Reviewer: Dan English
Pantomime is a Christmas tradition, yet almost becoming as traditional is the turkey on the table is the high quality of Canterbury’s festive offering, with the Marlowe’s production of Cinderella being no different.
Boasting a cast of soap stars and Canterbury panto stalwarts, this year’s production of Cinderella delivers the high-quality pantomime that one comes to expect from the Marlowe Theatre and Evolution Pantomime’s Paul Hendy (director and writer). Hendy’s script yet again offers gag after gag, with jokes for the old and young littered across the piece, including a wonderful return for the Marlowe pantomime’s pun cart. Dazzling in its design and with Jono Kitchens’ mesmerising choreography (the opening of a scene at a funfair is remarkable), this is a must see.
Oliver Walton and Cara Dudgeon, Prince Charming and Cinderella respectively, drive the loose narrative forward and do sparkle as their love story unfolds. One wonders how easy it is playing the title roles in a pantomime when these are often sideshows for the usual panto hysteria, yet Walton and Dudgeon do well to establish their roles in this production.
Harry Reid’s Dandini is the charmingly goofy best friend of Prince Charming, caught up in the latter’s desire to be a ‘normal’ citizen in his quest for love. Reid looks at home on stage, working the raucous pantomime audience well, but also showing an assurance in his role. There’s a chemistry between this cast which shines through, and Reid is one of its brightest lights.
Sally Lindsay as the Fairy Godmother is a triumph, and from her first flying entrance, Lindsay captures the attention and the audience’s awe. Lindsay’s involvement in the show’s opening, coupled with an unexpected video cameo, sets the tone for the joyful two and a half hours which follow. It takes a while for Lindsay’s Fairy Godmother to establish herself in the story, but her role in Cinderella getting to the ball, including one of the most memorable closing numbers in recent Marlowe panto history, is a treat.
Making triumphant returns to the Marlowe stage for yet another panto are Phil Gallagher, Ben Roddy and Lloyd Hollett, who play the rib-tickling Buttons and Ugly Step-Sisters respectively. The trio are fast becoming staples of the Canterbury Christmas offering, especially Roddy and Hollett who continue to execute the bawdy comedy of panto with aplomb. Coupling outrageous costumes with sharp wit and an eye for a visual gag, the Ugly Step-Sisters are scene stealers, especially in their jaw-dropping first entrance. Gallagher’s lovable and unlucky in love Buttons holds the audience’s attention in his palms. A stalwart of Marlowe pantomimes, Gallagher is given a chance to shine yet again in this year’s offering, something he revels in doing.
Michelle Marden’s sparkly set design captures the imagination without being too intrusive, capturing the festive atmosphere well. With this, and under Chris Wong’s musical directorship, it’s an infallible pantomime.
It never feels completely like Christmas until you’ve seen a pantomime, with Canterbury’s being the complete festive treat; you’ll, just like Cinderella, have a ball. This is a mesmerising, side-splitting and triumphant production which could well be the Marlowe’s best yet.
Runs until Sunday 6 January 2019 | Image: Pamela Raith