Cinderella is probably everyone’s favourite pantomime story, and you monkey around with the traditional characters at your peril. Bob Carlton plays it safe with this year’s seasonal offering for Hornchurch audiences. The principals are all members of the Queen’s Theatre repertory company with eight talented youngsters from the theatre’s youth company as the villagers and palace staff.
Designer Mark Walters provides some sumptuous sets and costumes with a fine baroque false proscenium and drop curtain, against which the (initially an old biddy) Fairy Godmother (Karen Fisher-Pollard) gives us the back story with shadow puppets. Then we meet Buttons (Mark Stanford), who immediately gets the audience on his side and the not-quite-got-it-right inventor Baron Hardup (Stuart Organ).
The heroine is played by Natasha Moore, sweet-voiced and graceful. Which is more than you can say for her step-sisters, bean-pole Euthanasia (Tom Jude) and bean-tub Asphyxia (Simon Jessop). They’re a brace of horrors, very funny in most of their routines, though the cake-making scene didn’t quite work out. Dandini (Carlton eliminates the usual identity-swap with Prince Charming) is Callum Hughes.
I failed to warm to Niall Costigan as the Prince, who makes his entrance as a huntsman. The fox being pursued takes refuge with Cinderella, acquires a name (Lucy) and finally materialises as the Fairy Godmother. All the transformation scenes are very well handled and the audience loved the silver coach drawn by a unicorn which took off for the skies at the first act finale. The original music is by Carol Sloman who leads a three-piece band in the pit.