Cinderella – Panto Online

Reviewer: Dominic Corr

Writer: Peter Duncan

Directors: Peter Duncan and Ian Talbot

The gloves are off for Panto season. Most are in person, but there are a few that are digital such as Peter Duncan’s take on Cinderella. A classic a tale as they come, of the soon to be Princess who lost her glass slipper, Cinderella is a staple of many of our upbringings. And with countless variations, many struggle to develop something further or unique or manage to capture more than the obvious tropes of the fairy tale. Cinderella, as digital Pantomime, hosts a creative concoction of colour and playful twists – and while it may not have live audiences in front of the performers, there’s a tangible sense of pride and enjoyment throughout.

Blue Peter alumni, director and writer, and all-around British legend Peter Duncan brings the magic of Cinderella to the silver screen, both as a digital streaming service and a big-screen event spectacular for the entire family. Shifting up the dynamics of the original tale, he and co-director Ian Talbot take interesting twists with Cinderella and Talbot turns in a downtrodden though optimistically enjoyable Baron Hardup.

The film’s parallels with classic giants Laurel and Hardy are difficult to miss, and Duncan litters the film with delightful side-moments of slapstick and a soupcon of homages to the pioneers of the genre. But that’s not to say Cinderella isn’t original; it certainly strives for a sense of difference away from the traditional Pantomime. The on-location setting for Hardup Hall works wonders for the immersion – Duncan’s backyard provides most of it – but keen-eyed viewers will also recognise fantastical elements in the ilk of Terry Gilliam, Ever After or The Princess Bride.

A star in her own right, Lucy-Jane Quinlan’s Cinderella is as fiery as she is vivacious and sincere. Her Cinderella isn’t a pushover, finding kindness and value in life, but isn’t afraid to light a fire and push back against her wicked stepsisters. Quinlan finds steady footing, both belting out numbers and sourcing more subdued integrity to the film’s original songs.

But let’s be frank – no one really gives a toss about Cinders, people are here for the villains, the Wicked stepsisters Billie Eyelash and Ariana Shande. Under all that make-up, and there’s a lot of it, audiences will spot Duncan himself as Eyelash and panto pal Adam Price as a delightfully malicious and foul Shande , both full of spite for Cinders with plenty of acid-tongued comments. The pair are the perfect duo of Panto baddies, mugging the camera to provide an interaction of sorts with audiences, encouraging boos and gasps.

But aside from the snorts of derision at our villains, Cinderella features a lengthy catalogue of musical numbers from the team of Lucy Duncan/Robbie Defacto, Peter Duncan and Henry Roadnight – all original pieces which cross from ballads to comedy numbers, and one rather spooky number in the dead of the forest, a touching pastiche in the late Stephen Sondheim’s style.

Cinderella, despite its glitz and esteemed guests, does initially pull punches but then sticks itself a touch too stringently in the ‘safe’ area. For younger audiences, it’s a delight, enjoyable and interactive with enough of a chuckle and colour to entertain, but audiences looking for a cut closer to the bone may find it lacking. But moving into the second act, as stakes build, the film does find a set of teeth, delivering some bite in humorous line deliveries and a valiant, if slightly tripped over, sense of integrity within its finale – a touching message on female stereotypes, and the changing value of fairytales.

 Available here to rent

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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