Cinderella (Bury St Edmunds – panto)

Bury St Edmunds’ Theatre Royal is such a perfect playhouse that productions which fall short of their surroundings seem to disappoint disproportionately.

Aimée Barrett
Aimée Barrett
© Keith Mindham

Theatre director Karen Simpson has chosen Cinderella to launch the 50th anniversary of the re-opening of this late Georgian gem of a theatre. The version of the well-loved story which she selected is that by Peter Duncan; it is designed by Rebecca Law and has Phil Gostelow as musical director.

Visually it appeals with slightly quirky set pieces presented to our view in proper 19th century fashion. Some of the costumes look very well – Cinderella as a skivvy, Buttons as a hand-me-down version of Baron Hardup and the 18th century court flamboyance of Prince Charming.

The trouble with pantomime is that it only works its magic when the audience is 100 per cent with the performers and they themselves engage fully with the people on the other side of the footlights. On the opening night this was, unfortunately, not the case.

Choreographer Julia Cave, who also plays the dashing Prince in full principal boy mode, has devised some attractive routines for both the juvenile chorus and the principal characters.

Aimée Barrett is a sweet-voiced and attractive heroine, once the sound balance has been sorted out, with Matthew Russell-Jones giving Buttons a genuinely likeable and affectionate personality.

The Ugly Stepsisters (in this version mama scarpered when she realised that Hardup lived up to his name but her offspring have hopes of a legacy – or two) are Jon de Ville and James Parkes. As with Philip Cox's Baron, their performances never completely gelled.

Dandini is played by Danielle Delys as a slightly more up-market version of Buttons, an interpretation which works very well. But, for my ears, having Gostelow and percussionist Nicky Caulfield tucked away up-stage affected the sound balance and was visually distracting.

Cinderella plays at the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds until 11 January.