Weak, messy script-writing makes for irritating viewing: Cinderella @ Alhambra Theatre


Photo credit: Nigel Hillier

Fans of pantomime will know the basic premise of the classic storyline, Cinderella. However, its latest reincarnation at The Alhambra Theatre leaves plenty of room for confusion.

In this version, a rather irritating Cinderella (played by Sarah Goggin, who doesn’t manage to get me on side) arrives in Pantoland with her inexplicably awful step-sisters Hernia and Verruca (played neither menacingly or humorously by Graham Hoadly and Jack Land Noble respectively). Why her father Baron Hardup or her evil stepmother are nowhere to be seen, or why Cinderella makes no attempt to explain this, makes the whole plot seem implausible. What hold do the ugly stepsisters have over Cinderella, and why doesn’t our heroine simply stand up for herself and leave? It’s this kind of weak, messy scriptwriting that makes this year’s pantomime a little irritating.

Enter the lovely Coleen Nolan as Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother, who magically puts her in the path of Prince Charming (cue random scene where Prince Charming and his henchman Dandini hastily and rather suddenly decide to switch places for a while so the Prince can experience life as a normal man… Oh, hey, here’s Cinderella the servant girl wandering in the very same woods…).

It’s a thinly strung together plot and the scenes don’t flow very well. Comedy sketches seem plonked into the main action for a bit of light relief – though admittedly the scene with a malfunctioning teddy bear unintentionally brings the house down. Writer Alan McHugh has created a script that relies too heavily on the audience rooting for the characters out of Panto instinct, rather than through genuinely witty one-liners and a believable fairytale plot.

The cast as a general are fairly mediocre, which is a shame given Sam Barrett (Prince Charming) is an exceptional talent yet doesn’t seem comfortable in his role. The stand-out, as always, is the exceptional Billy Pearce as Buttons. His incredible energy, hilarious ad-hoc lines and interaction with the audience is a joy to watch yet again. However, year-on-year it becomes increasingly uncomfortable that Buttons is in love with Cinderella. For reference, Billy Pearce is 66 and Sarah Goggin is 25… if that doesn’t make everyone in the audience uncomfortable, it should do. Even in the light-hearted world of Pantomime, it’s bizarre at best and this part of the storyline could easily be avoided.

That aside, Billy Pearce is truly flawless and anyone who hasn’t seen him strut his stuff really needs to get themselves down to The Alhambra Theatre, Bradford. You have until 28th January 2018 to grab your tickets!