Review: Cinderella at the Arts Theatre - “jaw-achingly funny from start to finish”

PUBLISHED: 12:00 04 December 2019

Cindarella is the Cambridge Arts Theatre's Christmas pantomime for 2019. Wayne Sleep and Matt Crosby on stage. Picture: RICHARD HUBERT SMITH

Cindarella is the Cambridge Arts Theatre's Christmas pantomime for 2019. Wayne Sleep and Matt Crosby on stage. Picture: RICHARD HUBERT SMITH

Archant

Interestingly, I started my 2018 review of Aladdin at the Cambridge Arts Theatre with the line “if you want to chase away those Brexit blues!”

So, again, if you want to chase away those Brexit/Election blues and immerse yourself in Christmas spirit, get down to the Arts Theatre for this year's offering of Cinderella.

It is jaw-achingly funny from start to finish. Beautiful costumes, especially those for the ball, and honestly, Wayne Sleep dressed as a chandelier is hilarious and full marks to costume designer Sue Simmerling and the wardrobe department for that creation. The ugly sisters, Melania (Wayne Sleep), and Ivanka (the wonderful Matt Crosby), steal the show, as they are meant to, but for me, Buttons (Isaac Stanmore) came in at a very close third. He was very funny and the audience warmed to him from the off.

Two of the funniest scenes in the show (the spa and the balloon trick) involved Stanmore who has a natural ability to make people laugh with the smallest of gestures or facial expressions.

Sleep and Crosby wear a selection of outfits that defy gravity and cross all boundaries of taste and decency and this makes for some added hilarity.

For me, the highlights of the show were the flying stunt (no spoilers), Crosby's entrance to the stage on a pink space hopper and the spa. Crosby and Stanmore slip and slide across the stage and it did look painful, but watching people fall over is always funny.

There was a fair old sprinkling of politics in this year's production and climate change was given a good airing, which is fine, but, there is always a but, reviewers are never completely satisfied, I do think it is important not to stray too far from tradition.

I think that if you mess with the original too much, inevitably, something gets lost.

Many of the panto audience will be younger children embarking on their first panto experience and it just felt the balance this year was tipped in favour of one-liners and adult jokes that would have been lost on children and that's a shame.

For a start, there was no wicked stepmother and although the ugly sisters dished out plenty of cruelty and meanness, this element of the plot jarred a bit for me. We didn't really see enough of Cinders alone with her chores to feel any real empathy for the character and the plot line suggests that Cinderella's father doesn't notice her ill treatment somehow. Sorry, but that just didn't work for me or my 12-year-old granddaughter who asked several times why there was no evil stepmother.

It is great to have a fresh approach, but messing with the original should be considered carefully, otherwise it's just not Christmas panto.


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