Working in a school, I was delighted to learn that the year sevens would be studying pantomime for their Christmas assessment this year. I was less delighted to learn that very few of the year sevens had any concept of the pantomime, and even less had actually visited one. The question “what do we know about pantomime?”, was met by an uncharacteristic and confused silence. It gave rise to many worrying thoughts, namely the idea that panto, in this technologically absorbed world, is out of date and increasingly irrelevant to modern day audiences and, particularly, modern day children. Casting my mind towards the Barking Broadway’s Christmas offering of Cinderella that I was due to see that weekend, I dreaded the idea that it would confirm all my nagging doubts…
I needn’t have worried. Cinderella’s relentless energy, particularly within a small budget regional theatre like the Broadway, is truly uplifting and restored all my confidence in panto’s appeal for generations to come. Indeed, I was repeatedly hit in the face with a plastic sword by a small boy who could barely contain his excitement and squeals.
What is particularly heartening about this production is its celebration of the community that it calls home. Prince Charming of Dagenham, pronounced “Dar-jen-haam,” initially tells Cinderella he lives on a housing estate in order for her not to judge his upper class ways and Marsha the fairy godmother is employed by Barking and Dagenham council to grant wishes for free, while the fairy godmother of Conservative neighbouring borough Havering has doubled prices due to cuts. Epitomising this celebration of the community, created in partnership with local community theatre company Arc, are the local children of the cast, whose talent and enthusiasm is infectious.
The children are part of a fantastic cast that excel with some great audience interaction. Amy Green as Cinderella is adorable, and Ian Crowe and Andy Gillies steal the show as the two ugly stepsisters Nefaria and Lascivia. I was also particularly impressed with the set. After being exposed to pantomimes with varying budgets over the years, including one with a 3D genie, the understated but charming set works to enhance and not upstage the performances and script. At times the songs were a little lacklustre, and I must admit I was slightly relieved when the ugly stepsisters stopped one song in full flow because they’d “had enough of singing”. And yet this is a minor quibble in what is a thoroughly enjoyable show and one which doesn’t cease to promote the enduring spirit of pantomime.
Cinderella is playing at the Broadway Theatre until 2 January 2013. For more information and tickets, see the Broadway Theatre website.