Cinderella (Review – Online)

Cinderella (Review – Online)

This time last year, just as the panto season was about to take off, the world spun on its axis and everything came crashing down as the dreaded tier system and eventually lockdown resurfaced. Many traditional family shows were either cancelled outright, had to play in extreme socially distanced circumstances or were hastily transferred to an online format. Panto expert and ex Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan, however, had already made prudent plans by filming a version of Jack And The Beanstalk during the summer which meant that those in danger of being starved of their annual fix could watch from home. I can’t find any figures, but it was probably one of the most watched shows of the festive season. Deciding to leave nothing to chance Duncan and his team are back again this year with a similar take on Cinderella.


This is a timely comfort blanket of a production with its well-known storyline about overcoming adversity and finding your dream and doesn’t set out to offer surprises or twists; I’m sure for that reason alone it will prove popular. Duncan’s script treads a very safe path through proceedings and the sparkling costumes, bad jokes, bouncy songs, well-worn comedy routines and so on are all present and correct. Even though it is all filmed remotely there are regular bursts of audience participation encouraged though I did draw the line at executing roly polys around my living room. Just in case anyone is unfamiliar with what to do when joining in, there’s a helpful section on their website titled “How To Panto”. It’s a sobering reminder that, perhaps more than any other theatrical form, there’s a set of “rules/instructions” which are very particular to the genre and on which it absolutely relies to complete the experience.

Cinderella Peter Duncan as Ugly Sister Billie with Adam Price as Ugly Sister Ariana

As last year, Duncan is again that oddest of creatures the pantomime dame though here he is joined by another veteran of the damehood, Adam Price. They play Ugly Sisters Billie Eyelash and Ariana Shandé (“Shandy to my mates”). Their increasingly outrageous costumes (David Morgan) threaten to upstage their performances which are suitably bitchy and spiteful. There’s certainly no problem with booing these two and their various appearances are the highlight of the show. Henry Roadnight is a bundle of energy as Buttons that hopeless romantic who is best friend to everyone even when he is ultimately disappointed. Ian Talbot essentially reprises his role from last year, rising slightly up the social scale from Squire to Baron although not doing quite so well financially. Talbot and Roadnight’s recreation of the classically messy decorating sketch is a second half winner. Lucy-Jane Quinlan and Sam Ebenezer make a charming (see what I did there?) couple though the latter’s beard was a little surprising. Both sing well but you do find yourself waiting for the comedy to resurface – well, I found that I did anyway.

Most of Jack last year was filmed in Duncan’s back garden but they have been able to spread their wings a little more and bring in other locations this time round. Stately Minley Manor in Camberley stands in for the royal residence and, with social distancing and ventilation in mind the ball is now an outside function in some beautiful woodlands. This also allows for a small troupe of circus performers to do their thing though I was rather puzzled by the inclusion of some ghosts when Cinderella fled at midnight; they seemed to be there just so that we could shout “Behind you”. Being a filmed version means that a real carriage and white horses can be brought into play.

Cinderella 7 The ugly sisters are sloshed

In truth I preferred last year’s show, perhaps because it was more of a novelty and there simply wasn’t the live options which are always going to be superior. However, if you’re looking for a totally traditional take on a panto then this is the one to go for as it contains all the expected elements and is a well-rounded and lovingly crafted piece of family entertainment. I’m tempted to say you’ll have a ball, but I’ll leave the groan worthy punning to Duncan and co. For them it’s definitely a case of “Here’s one I made earlier”.

Cinderella can be accessed via Panto Online – click here

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