BWW Review: CINDERELLA, Fairfield Halls
JG Ballard once wrote that airports comprise one city, each its own neighbourhood, but bordering on and alike to its linked sisters rather than the place in which it is geographically located.
Pantoland is a bit like that - each pantomime is much more like another pantomime than it is like the programme of shows, plays and events that surrounds it in any venue. This is no bad thing. People do not buy tickets for pantos in order to be surprised - they buy them to visit a safe home that they love. Some of us feel that way about Chekhov too.
To Croydon and a seat amongst lots and lots of kids, parents trying not to look at phones and grandparents thinking how lucky they are to return to a quiet home. Cinderella is the offer this year and it mixes the old and new perfectly for that audience.
The story is old of course, and there are few compromises with its gender stereotyping - for all that we're told that Cinders must be brave and strong etc, her only wish is to marry Prince Charming and exact revenge on her enemies. Also from the old school playbook, we get plenty of songs, some slightly out of time dancing, cherubic kids on stage and enough laughs too.
The new comes with some spectacular video work from Nina Dunn, Luigi Sardi and Harrison Cooke, the best I've seen in Pantoland, even if I had to hide a little behind the peak of my cap at times, so bright was its glare.
The cast is the mix of "proper" actors and celebrities with which we have become familiar, which does lead to an unevenness in technical accomplishment - those days at drama school were well spent. Grace Chapman belts with West End pipes in her big numbers as our heroine and Jason Marc-Williams and Alistair Barron make a fine pair of dames who will surely loosen up and ad lib a little more as the run progresses. Tim Vine, a stand still as much as a stand up in the role of Buttons, holds it together with his usual fusillade of puns.
Maybe the laugh quotient could be higher - writer Will Brenton avoids double-entendres and satire, so he's fishing in less well stocked waters than others in Pantoland. But that makes for a show that in definitely Certificate U and not 12 or even 12A, territory into which some pantos step these days.
One disappointment is - after quite a long show - the finale is somewhat half-hearted (no wedding dress for Cinders, no morning suit for Prince Charming?) but that's a rare misstep in a panto that won't trouble the Oliviers jury but will please thousands looking for relief from the grey concrete of Croydon.