Brian Conley steals the show in this uproariously funny pantomime that is set to delight audiences young and old.
It has to be said first of all that seeing this latest pantomime at Woking’s New Victoria Theatre provided the most laughs that I have had in a long time – and it is very much to the credit to everyone involved for making it such a lively and enjoyable experience.
Written by Michael Harrison and Brian Conley, what makes this version of Cinderella so refreshing is the way in which it focuses more on the friendship of Cinderella and Buttons (of course never forgetting the prince meets girl romance side of the story) to offer a new perspective on things and in many ways adding to even more hilarity. Just look out for the scene in which Prince Charming attempts to sing ‘(Everything I Do) I Do it For You’ to Cinderella but is increasingly interrupted by Buttons and brilliantly choreographed. But equally what is fascinating is the way in which unlike other pantomimes that will be around for families, there is certainly more cheeky and adult related humour then you would perhaps find in your average family pantomime – particularly during the first act. But don’t worry kids there is plenty of toilet related humour in there for you too (which will equally make the adults chuckle)!
This is a really pacy production, directed by Kathryn Rooney that features plenty of technical magic, fantastic and (in the case of Claudia and Tess – Cinderella’s sisters) increasingly flamboyant costumes, all set up against the backdrop of the simple but playful set designs that allow for effective scene changes. It all feels smoothly put together. It is by equal measures lively and heartwarming. But also rather surprisingly, while keeping many aspects that we associate with pantomimes, there are one or two aspects that are different (such as the lack of ‘he’s behind you’ running throughout) and makes it feel like a more contemporary take that makes it a joy to watch – even for those who are traditionally not pantomime fans.
Throughout it all the cast delightfully through themselves into each role and are certain to leave plenty of smiles on faces. At the centre of it all, Brian Conley is wonderfully charismatic and easy to like as Buttons and more than capable of reacting to things hen they don’t quite go according to plan – much to the delight of the audience. Elsewhere, I enjoyed the sharp sassiness of Jenny Gayner’s Fairy Godmother, who is compassionate but with just a hint of bite to her performance that is delightful. Meanwhile, Neal Wright and Ben Stock as Claudia and Tess are suitably wicked sister with a hint of playfulness that the audience can’t help but react to.
From start to finish, this a pantomime that has real heart, sense of humour and will keep audiences of all ages suitably entertained. You will have an absolute ball watching this.
By Emma Clarendon
Cinderella will play at the New Victoria Theatre until the 31st December.