Fear not, Nottingham, for you shall go to the Panto! The fairy godmother has waved her magic wand, sprinkled glitter far and wide, and decreed that all shall laugh heartily, be dazzled by the costumes and finally find a happy ending to 2020!
Cinderella, written and directed by Adam Penford, is the perfect antidote to these dark times. A high-energy, laugh-out-loud spectacular, with bags of local charm and world-class costumes and set. The appeal of the traditional panto is in its predictability, and a bit of certainty is what we all need at the moment. What we get is a fresh and funny script, with plenty of topical references (but not too many!), and a hard-working, skilful cast who bring it fully to life, despite there being only 8 of them. This streamlined pantomime may have lost some of the impact of the ‘big’ chorus numbers but makes up for it with energetic performances, great harmonies and a cast who are clearly loving being back doing what they love.
Despite the title, the stars of this show are undoubtedly the ugly sisters, Kourtney (John Elkington) and Kylie (Tom Hopcroft), channelling Beyonce and Madonna in their desperate quest for a rich husband. There is great chemistry between young, local upstart Hopcroft and the legendary Elkington, with plenty of asides and ad-libs, even on this recorded on-demand performance. Elkington’s skill in engaging the audience and chatting off-the-cuff is admirable, but Hopcroft holds his own, fully committing to the many (ridiculous) things asked of his character.
The ugly sisters are almost upstaged by their incredible costumes, designed by Morgan Brind, which are wonderfully over the top, yet beautifully detailed. Set in a fantastical goose fair, there is a liberal dusting of glitter and glitz on the many scene changes, and lots to amaze and delight, supported by the exceptional lighting of Alexandra Stafford.
Cinderella has enough backbone to stand her ground and Gabrielle Brooks plays her with confidence and great relish, with her Prince (David Albury) rather more self-aware and emotionally intelligent than your average (panto) royal. Buttons (Tim Frater) knits the whole show together with a lovely innocence and energy, and Dandini (Jessica Lee) provides another positive and perky outlook to raise the spirits.
Sara Poyzer takes the prize for fastest costume changes, transforming from kind-hearted Notts fairy godmother to gloriously avaricious, upper-class baddy, Baroness Kim. Poyzer’s presence and poise means she pulls off these dual roles with natural aplomb.
The show is threaded through with well-known songs gutsily performed, from the sublime (The Greatest Showman) to the ridiculous (Monty Python), and MD John Morton keeps the band moving at a pace, with sound well managed by Will Cottrell. Choreographer Rachael Nanyonjo does a great job of adding interest and vitality to the staging, even whilst maintaining social distancing between the cast.
The team at the Playhouse has worked incredibly hard to produce this show under constantly changing circumstances. The filming and editing, which can create a barrier in many streamed theatre performances, is seamless, and this is undoubtedly down to detailed forward planning and intelligent directing.
Cinderella is available on-demand to purchase – each recording can be downloaded and watched at a time to suit, within 5 days of purchase. It can also be watched multiple times, so it certainly offers value for money, and will keep the kids entertained! The Playhouse hope to stage live performances from 19th December, but this will depend on Government restrictions. On Christmas eve, there are bonus scenes to enjoy at a special streamed version.
Buy a ticket, support Nottingham Playhouse, and remember what it is to be lost in, and uplifted by, the magic of theatre. For this Christmas, thanks to the Playhouse, you shall go to the ball!
Photo credit: Pamela Raith.