Lisa Clatworthy gets behind you at the Arts Theatre’s panto
If anyone doubts the relevance of panto to today’s modern, techno savvy kids, get yourself down to the Cambridge Arts Theatre before 17 January to see Cinderella. At last night’s show, the kids were lapping it up – yes, the big kids too! – and we’ve no reason to doubt that that will apply to every audience, every night.
In true pantomime style, the Arts Theatre’s Cinderella has something for everyone: slapstick, booing and hissing, song and dance routines, romance and, of course, word play a plenty. As well as the almost obligatory groan inducing puns, there are some gems, such as Buttons claiming Baron Hardup lives on borrowed thyme and the newspaper headline: Shoe’s that girl? The clever writing keeps the audience laughing and the plot moving.
And while the plot follows the course of the traditional fairytale, with, of course, the happy ever after ending, Al Morley and Matt Crosby’s version of Cinderella is modern, savvy and local. With jibes about the “terrible accident west of Cambridge” aka Cambourne and the rivalry between our city and Oxford, plus references to Justin Bieber, Game of Thrones and Poldark, you’re left in no doubt that this is a sophisticated, modern take on the classic panto.
Matching the writing for brilliance is the set, which skillfully transports you from Stony Broke to Hardup Hall. Its high point though has to be Cinderella’s journey from Hardup Hall to the ball – that’s all I’m saying, I don’t want to give the game away!
For me the only low points – and by low point I mean I let up laughing for a moment or two – were a couple of scenes between Baron Hardup and Buttons. They felt like box ticking: Slapstick? Tick. Audience singalong? Tick. The rest of the two and a half hours were glorious, with superb acting all round. If I had to pick one actor out for praise though, I’d be torn between understudy Justin-Lee Jones and panto virgin Suzie Mathers. Stepping into the ugly sister’s shoes at the last minute, Jones almost stole the show from Cinders.
All in all, it’s a pretty good show. Oh no, it isn’t. It’s a brilliant one.
Cinderella, Cambridge Arts Theatre, various times and ticket prices
Images by Richard Hubert Smith