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Panto! Cinderella

Does Cinders get to the ball on time. Does the prince find his princess? Is this a traditional panto in all the best ways? Oh yes it is! Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, you've done it again!

All photos by Simon Annand

After being shortlisted in three categories last year for the Best Panto Awards –  big things are expected from the Yvonne Arnaud’s panto production of Cinderella.

Ex EastEnders star Michelle Gayle heads the line up but it is the magical trio of Guildford stalwarts Eagle Radio’s Peter Gordon, cabaret regular Kit Hesketh-Harvey and panto lifer Jamie Brooks who keep the action, jokes and custard pies coming thick and fast.

This is traditional panto in the best way, outlandish costumes, really REALLY ugly sisters, routine slapstick and an awful lot of comedy cheese.  The cast know their audience and play it just right for the laughs. Both my nine-year-old and slightly sceptical 11-year-old were immersed as soon as Gayle uttered those immortal lines : Once upon a time….

The story is updated with great singalong versions – mostly from The Greatest Showman, which ticked a lot of boxes for the audience.  The first act rolled along nicely, warming up the kids’ lungs with a Brummie “Awroight” callout to Buttons, introducing the characters and finishing it all off with a great slapstick bench routine. Although by the end of another rendition of This is Me I was half expecting a bearded ugly sister to appear.

But the whole show took a step up in Act 2, when the fun really began.  As a first timer to the Yvonne Arnaud Panto – I was unaware of the tradition of the Twelve Days of Christmas number, which was fab-U-lous! The frenzied countdown to the ‘five custard pies’ whipped my son and, going by the ringing still in my ear drums, everyone else into a baying crowd, secretly hoping the seven pairs of knickers would fall on them.

From then on it was just pure, indulgent panto fun.  Kit Hesketh-Harvey gave a shimmering solo rendition of ‘I Am What I Am’, the younger ensemble cast added a real local charm to all the proceedings as forest creatures and court dancers – while credit to  Gordon and Nick Barclay (and costume designer Jamie Attle) for their infinite costumes changes as the Ugly Sisters, from the Trump farting pants to the more subtle laughs with a Christmas pudding.

At times it was hard to hear Cinderella’s singing and as cute as they were, my kids did ask me why two real Shetland ponies were needed on such a noisy, fun-fuelled stage.

But if I had the choice between spending double the money for some West End choreography or having a blast closer to home. I’d choose the latter.

Oh Yes I Would.

Review by Jay Bayliss

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