Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield. Reviewed by Dawn Smallwood
Cinderella opens at Huddersfield’s Lawrence Batley Theatre with a ball – there is a festive atmosphere of Christmas songs being played and a glittering stage greeting the audience. This is the theatre’s first ever professional pantomime, written by Andrew Pollard and directed by Joyce Branagh.
A traditional pantomime is always based on a tale and in this case, Cinderella. This popular fairy tale is loved by many – a story of rags to riches. Cinderella (Nisa Cole) is a slave to her wicked stepmother and her ugly stepsisters. However with her friend, Buttons, and the magical mentoring from her Fairy Godmother, anything is possible including going to the ball and meeting her Prince Charming.
This production has everything one expects and loves about a traditional pantomime. The Fairy Godmother (Natasha Magigi) serves as a narrator as well as Cinderella’s saviour. Buttons, servant and only friend of Cinderella, interacts and entertains the audience who shouts his arrival “bing bong bang, you’re in Buttons’ gang!” throughout. Magigi doubles up as the unpopular wicked Baroness Hardup, Cinderella‘s stepmother, and the audience reacts appropriately when she refers to them as “Huddersfield’s horrors and hillbillies”. Kylie and Miley Hardup, the stepsisters, (Richard Hand and Michael Hugo) make an unorthodox entrance with their outrageous costumes and they capture the audience’s attention with their nonsensical innuendoes and tongue in cheek.
Pantomimes are known to be localised and this production is no exception with references to Prince Charming (Adam Barlow) known as the “Prince of Dewsbury” and that “best ladies reside not in Wakefield but in Huddersfield”. Dandini (Stephanie Hackett) is originally “Danielle from Huddersfield” and the stepsisters’ shopping at Kirkgate’s shopping centre and their association with the “Mirfield Majorettes”. There are also references to celebrities, current affairs and pop stars which everyone can relate to and its puns and connotations that fit in the script.
Well known songs, some arranged as medleys, and familiar live music is arranged effectively by Rebekah Hughes and its performances are choreographed by Rachel Root. Sing-a-longs are obviously encouraged which guarantees maximum participation from the audience and also the usual pantomime lines such as “oh no it wasn’t”, “oh yes it was”, “it’s behind you” and so on.
The Fairy Godmother poetically summaries the moral of the story and this is relayed at the beginning and at the end of the pantomime. This shines through the character of Cinderella and how the good conquers the evil combined with self belief as summed up by the cast singing the cover of Neil Diamond’s I’m a Believer.
Cinderella certainly has something for everyone. With stunning sparkling sets and colourful costumes, courtesy of Glitter Pantomimes, this talented cast certainly delivers a pantomime fitting for royalty and a night at the “ball” is guaranteed. A festive treat waits at the Lawrence Batley Theatre.