Cinderella – Review – York Theatre Royal

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Cinderella – Review

York Theatre Royal, December 2016

by Roger Crow

Ever go to those house parties where you don’t know anybody? And although you’re made to feel welcome, and the home is beautiful, there’s no getting around the fact seemingly everyone around you has been here before. They finish each other’s sentences and have history.

cinderella review york theatre royal mainThat’s my feeling for the first half watching Cinderella, the latest panto from genre veteran/co-director/writer Berwick Kaler and fellow helmer Damian Cruden.

The last time I saw a panto, The Untouchables was film of the year and Bananarama were in the charts. Kaler was already a panto veteran, even then.

This wet Friday night, folks who weren’t born in ’87 are taking their kids to see Cinders, Prince Charming and that glass slipper at York’s stunning Theatre Royal. After 25-years of being an adopted northerner, I can’t believe this is my first visit. The sets and costumes are fun, dazzling, bizarre, surreal and unforgettable. Yes, there’s plenty of thigh-slapping, sly winks to the audience; gags for mum and dad, and a cast of kids on stage who do their folks proud.

“Weird, wonderful panto magic”

cinderella review york theatre royal mainNow, I’ll not let the cats out of the bag regarding the guest stars in a couple of (gobsmackingly weird) films, but the first feels like Grayson Perry’s Carpool Karaoke with Berwick, aka Hernia, chauffeuring a veteran rocker who won’t mean a thing to kids (or even possibly their parents).

The latter short film is one of the most bizarre things I’ve seen since (give the programme a miss until later to avoid spoilers). Let’s say if you’re a fan of a cult musical and local news, the result will make you wonder if someone has spiked your drink. For me that’s the biggest belly laugh; a point when the sight of a Yorkshire telly staple as I’ve never seen him before makes me realise anything is possible in the minutes that follow.

Though Kaler and company are obviously having a great time on stage, and most of their devoted audience lap it up, half way through the weird, wonderful panto magic starts to work on me. I feel I’ve been adopted by a huge family. It’s a party that takes a while to get into, but when I do, it’s a lot more fun.

“Eccentric characters”

One musical tongue-twisting number, ‘The Makers of the Sandwiches’, stands out, even if you lose some of the overlapping lyrics in the chaos. The sight of a grown man shuffling across stage on a tiny milking stool is one of the funniest things I’ve seen in some time.

cinderella review york theatre royal main

As a kid, pantos are all about the story; the eccentric characters and the fairy tale, but as an adult without kids? It’s that welcome sense of community where for a few hours you can forget your troubles and embrace the Christmas spirit.

Good support comes from David Leonard as Baroness Von Naff, who’s seemingly channelling the spirit of Grotbags (from the old Emu kids’ show) and Christopher Biggins. Hernia’s comedy stooge Priscilla (AJ Powell) is fun, even if the OTT Birmingham accent is a bit yawnsome. However, he’s a good sport as he gets a soaking, while genre veteran Suzy Cooper is a ditzy delight as Cinders.

“Outlandish moments”

The material in some shows is tightly packed like a parachute. This feels like someone has pulled the rip cord in minute one. But despite being loose and overlong, there’s no doubt it’s good value for money. I defy anyone not to crack up at many of the outlandish moments. At one point I look to my wife to check she is seeing the same extraordinary sight I am. Sometimes you just need a reminder of someone or something normal as the panto craziness takes hold.

One family we see later look like they’d had the time of their lives; the dad beaming like he’s just won the lottery. I don’t doubt they’ll be back next year.

images: Anthony Robling

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