Wednesday 8th December 2021 at York Theatre Royal
Buoyant and basking in fairytale fixtures from the get-go, York Theatre Royal’s Panto from writer Paul Hendry and director Juliet Forster isn’t doing things be halves.
This Cinderella has the all the comforting panto traditions paraded out in full force (who doesn’t love the Panto sing-along?), and adds in some generous modern embellishments which are well-placed, from pop hits to a nod to a certain hit TV show befitting a ball… The gags appeal to both slapstick and pun lovers (there’s a Disney character segment in particular which is pretty inspired), and the cheeky jokes land well, even if they are a little tame within the remits of pantoland.
Our lovable lead front and centre is Faye Campbell‘s radiant Cinderella, full of optimism and in this case, with a good self-respecting edge to her. She’s joined by meanie sisters Manky (Robin Simpson) and Mardy (Paul Hawkyard), who strike a nice balance between cruelty, vanity and idiocy. It’s also quite interesting to see how this version of the tale takes the sisters out of the margins to play not only the role of the cackling villains but also jointly cover the ground of the dame with their superb whacky costumes (Helga Wood) and their winking and nudging and gloriously corny jokes.
Andy Day and Benjamin Lafayette make a great clumsy but sincere pairing as Dandini and Prince Charming, and the twinkle between the Prince and Cinderella is bright. The sparkling talent atop this cake though is Max Fulham‘s Buttons, who in this version is joined by a cheeky monkey sidekick. Fulham not only has winning comedy chops of his own, but he showcases some fabulous ventriloquism to offer us some gently sarcastic commentary and plenty of visual comedy via said cheeky monkey.
Bells and whistles are plentiful too, and often more airborne than you might expect – from a show highlight from Duo Fusion Aerialists who stunned us all with heart-stopping mid-air moves to what is surely the show highlight for all the little (and big) ones who love a little magic: Cinderella’s carriage as she heads to the ball. Hayley Del Harrison‘s choreography offers real spectacle at times, too, and the ensemble work incredibly hard to include us in the shenanigans.
So if you’re looking for a panto which confidently embraces traditional and modern side by side, hand in hand, hip to hip, this production will fit the bill. It’s more child-friendly than some as it keeps the bawdy jokes gentle and plays to kids much more than grown-ups, but best of all if I put my “little person” lenses in, is that this show offers up both a thoroughly energised cast and all-out sparkle and spectacle throughout. Does it leave us jolly and humming on the way home? Oh yes it does!
York Theatre Royal’s Cinderella plays until January 2nd 2022 and you can find your tickets here.