Cinderella – Review – Hull New Theatre, 2018
Cinderella – Review
Hull New Theatre, December 2018
by Roger Crow / @RogerCrow
Having chatted to star Anita Dobson a few weeks ago about the show, I was curious to see how this version of Cinderella would work. Would the EastEnders veteran shine as I’d hoped she would? Could fellow showbiz legend Bernie Clifton deliver a successful version of Baron Hardup? Would Cinders go to the ball?
Well, as I settle in for a night of “Behind you!” and “Oh yes it is,” the result is every bit as brilliant as I’d hoped for, and then some.
Over the summer I saw Jocasta Almgill give a knockout turn in Sunshine on Leith, and here she’s also spot on as the Fairy Godmother. She looks like a million quid, and quite rightly sounds like she’s walked in off the street. All local pantos need a sense of place, and there’s little doubt this is a Hull show, though it looks as impressive as anything I’ve seen. (Years ago I was lucky enough to see Mary Poppins on Broadway, and this is just as classy and far more enjoyable).
There are so many boxes to tick with panto, from telling the classic story, to getting the casting right, and that all-important more elusive quality: ensuring there’s banter between the cast. After having a couple of weeks to bed in, I’ve seen the show at just the right time. The training wheels have come off, and the production feels like Chris Hoy winning gold at the Olympics.
The ugly sisters (David Dale and Tommy Wallace) are spot on and look like they’ve walked off the set of a Tim Burton movie, as does Cinders (Hannah Nicholas), who is as endearing and sweet as a meringue. The Prince (Neil McDermott) belts out a tune so well, the Greatest Showman track ‘Come Alive’ has never been more apt. He’s also got the charm and energy to carry the part, as does engaging sidekick Dandini (Liam Marcellino).
And Buttons. Ah Buttons, one of panto’s greatest staples. If I had to cast the perfect actor for the role, it would be a cross between Robbie Williams and Steve McDonald from Corrie. So I take my hat off to Martyn James for his performance; a perfect mix of deadpan charm, and ad-libbing excellence.
Had he sung ‘Let Me Entertain You’ while pulling a pint in the Rovers, I could not have been happier. The fact he also pulls off some high end magic tricks is a major bonus.
At the heart of it all is Bernie Clifton, a man I saw doing this sort of thing in Crackerjack all those years ago. He’s a perfect fit as a Baron Hardup: a bit bumbling and hugely likeable. His couple of gags with inflatables generate comedy gold, and there’s no surprise when a feathered friend makes an appearance.
Topping it all off is Anita Dobson, who never puts a foot wrong as the arch villainess, Baroness Angelique. She’s outstanding, generating that right degree of menace, while creating no end of belly laughs. Her comic timing is second to none, and one repeated old-school style music-hall routine involving a truncheon had me laughing every time. Talk about a gag that keeps on giving.
The 3D moment might be scary for some kids, in which case best to just leave the glasses off. However, as a veteran of many a theme park experience, I was very impressed. And there’s a moment before the end of the first act which takes your breath away. It’s that jaw-dropping scene which all great shows need.
“Worth every penny”
As fabulous as that is, the cumulative effect of the irreverence, magic, songs, dancing, cast and music ensure it’s worth every penny. Not only is it the best panto I’ve seen, but one of the most enjoyable stage shows I’ve enjoyed in years, anywhere.
Director David McNeil, Choreographer Katherine Iles and Lighting Designer Tim Oliver should be suitably proud of their achievements, while Mike Coltman’s costumes are also fabulous. And I could wax lyrical about the sets, which are to die for, but by now your eyes may be glazing over. The best thing is to see them for yourself.
Would this paying punter see the whole thing again tomorrow? In a heartbeat. Step aside Hugh Jackman. THIS is the greatest show.
images: Tom Arran