If you don’t know the story of Cinderella, then you haven’t truly entered the glittering, fantastic world of pantomime. With romance, men in drag and a mixed bag of tunes, the panto at Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield has it all. Director Joyce Branagh and writer Andrew Pollard have created a classic panto complete with all the right fillings. The Yorkshire focus is truly joyful, and brings a lot of humour throughout, especially from Cinderella’s wicked step-sisters Kylie and Miley. These fun parts are played by Richard Hand and Michael Hugo brilliantly without being too silly or too irritating. Nisa Cole also plays Cinderella with a Yorkshire accent. Her loveable, tom-boyish charm makes her a fairytale princess worth rooting for. She’s not vacuous, annoying, sickly-sweet, too perfect or not perfect enough – she’s just right.
Though Adam Barlow is a lovely Prince Charming, he lacks a certain appeal or intrinsic attractiveness that makes the audience really feel he’s The One for Cinderella. He’s still a better option than Buttons. Gareth Cassidy plays the part well, though for some reason it’s very obvious that the audience just doesn’t find him funny. He seems to get disheartened around halfway through and delivers his funny one-liners with a little less enthusiasm in the second half.
Stephanie Hackett delivers a top comedy performance as Danielle, a Huddersfield lass who pretends to be the Prince’s aid, Dandini. Hackett is lively, funny, outgoing and throws herself into the performance. She’s hilarious, and a real star.
It does seem a bit odd to set the play in the 1600s, seemingly just to facilitate a reason for Danielle being unable to be a female aid. It also seems extremely strange to have Natasha Magigi play both the Fairy Godmother and Baroness Hardup. Both parts are incredibly large parts (unnecessarily so), and this would have benefited from two separate actresses. Magigi is good, but she’s not necessarily good enough to carry so much of the show.
The cast are all great singers and some of the song choices are great (a Yorkshire rendition of I Know Him So Well, anyone?) Cake By The Ocean, however, is a little bizarre and this kind of tune doesn’t translate to cheese very well. Top points for trying, and the cast give it a good go, but it doesn’t quite pull off.
I don’t think the audience on a drizzly Monday night gave the performance the buzz and audience interaction it needed to really take off. This was proved by poor Prince Charming asking everyone to get up on their feet for the final dance… to a blanket response of ‘nope’. This was in no way a reflection of the cast’s performance, but rather a no doubt dreary and tired audience. I reckon with the right banter from the crowds this show can really be a winner.
Catch Cinderella at Lawrence Batley Theatre until 31st December.