Cinderella

 ‘Cinderella’ for this production, was written by Australia’s Master of Children’s pantos, Tony Nicholls. Tony presented more than two dozen different pantomimes whilst lecturing in English, Acting and Theatre at Curtin University.

A traditional pantomime script should have a girl paying the male lead, with two uncultured men as the Ugly Sisters. The dialogue should be a clever blend of the real storylines suitable for the children, then blended with innuendos, malapropisms and some pretty awful puns – the worse they are, the better the fathers will enjoy the performance. The comedy came thick and fast with at least a laugh a minute for most of the show.

The curtains go up on this traditional 2-hour pantomime on Fridays at 7.00pm; then on Saturdays and Sundays there are matinees at 2.00 pm. The season runs until Sunday 1st November at the Wembley Community Centre, 40 Alexander Street, WEMBLEY. Plenty of free parking.

This Community Centre’s stage is a metre off the ground, with a proper curtained proscenium arch.

This production had a set of large flats, impressively decorated as a forest scene on the floor at each side of the stage apron: these along with the striking artwork for the cycs and flats was by Suzanne Croston, with Nico and Claire Collins.

The colourful lighting was cleverly designed by Jude Croston and Mark Jackson, using the limited selection of lamps available and yet the effect was superb. Add a smoke machine and the little devils became even more creepy.

The musical director, Philip Wolter had the accompanying music and slick sound effects perfectly timed.

Efficient extra stage crew were Lisa Dunstan, Graham Davies and Sharon Wills.

Cinderella (Aimee Wills) is placing flowers on her mother’s grave when a woman, smartly dressed in red, with dark hair and horns appears; this is Lucifer ‘Lucy’ (Alli Hodgen) accompanied by her henchwomen, Carmelita (Marisha Davies) and Sabina (Bianca Patchett). Lucy offers Cinderella a wonderful new life, but luckily the ghost of Cinderella’s Mama (Margy Sturdy) begs her to think twice. The dim friends Rocco (Grace Ray) and Sprang (Aimée Croston) arrive and take Cinders to the village where the local girls (Ella Dunstan, Bella Bugg, Audrey Hodgen, Bridie King) are gathered around their stalls. When the Prince (Jade Guilfoyle) arrives, Count Dandini (Tom Ellis) begs for his help in becoming the new ruler.

At home, Cinderella’s father Baron Halfcock (Mark Jackson – doing a very good impersonation of a recent Prime Minister) had on the death of Cinderella’s Mama, remarried; sadly he married the most dreadful and selfish Lady Halfcock (Peter Niblett) who has two lazy and vile daughters, Swot (Matt Penny) and Hetty (Mike Rae).

The women of the house force poor Cinderella and their other servant, Buttons (Caitlin Jackson) into doing all the housework. When the Prince and his men come offering free invitations to the Royal Ball, Cinderella looses again and must stay at home.

Bryce Manning was once again Wembley’s panto director. With decades of experience he had selected a first class cast and honed them into the genre. Bryce used the side of the auditorium for entrances, and the central seating aisle to intimately bring the actors to the gapping, entranced children. The fairy godmother was replaced in this version by the ghost of Cinderella’s real mother, but the audience children still managed to follow the story easily.

Presenting a good pantomime is an individual art. The actors must not simply state their lines, but slightly ham them up in a semi-farcical performance. The whole cast, without exception, showed good chemistry and rapport.

Lucy, the two Ugly Sisters and the moronic Mother showed tremendous skill in working the audience which reached fever point on several occasions. The kids loved the banter and the effects. The lichen rock had them puzzled as to how the plant worked – or could it be real?

For those with small children there were large, shag-pile carpets in front of the stage apron in the ‘orchestra pit’. The broods sat there riveted by the colour, wild costumes (Claire Collins and Suzanne Croston) and the effects. Within minutes, with a tiny bit of prompting, they appropriately showed their approval or dislike of the characters. No tears or tantrums – kids loved it.

The reasonably priced tickets are from www.trybooking.com. With Covid the seating has been reduced by more than 50% and with 400 tickets sold already, get in quickly. The ticket includes a programme, a soft drink and a biscuit.

A wonderful pantomime, great fun at a bargain price.

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