Pantomimes immediately welcome you into the spirit of Christmas. With catchy songs, brightly-coloured sets, and always a ‘happily ever after’, it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the merriment of the festivities. They tend to follow the same structure; a story teller who invites you into the tale at the start, a handsome hero who wins the princess’ (or princess type character’s) heart, a comedy figure usually laden with sweets to throw and a ‘baddy’, who inevitably brings in the ‘boos’.
This is a Panto with no star line up, something that we have become rather accustomed to. We look forward to seeing our favourite Eastenders star as Captain Hook or the woman behind the bar at The Rovers as thee Wicked Witch. However, Hammersmith’s unique Panto not only has no star, but it also has few of the conventions you would normally associate with a classic Pantomime. After all, we no longer want to see the helpless, blonde princess fall madly in love with the 6-foot tall, handsome and personality-less prince, while size 6 dancers twirl around him. Instead, the Lyric has chosen to present us with a strong-minded Cinderella full of attitude and sass, dancers of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities and height, and a wicked stepmother in a wheelchair. However, these changes were not by any means overpowering because the show still retained all the magic and originality that we all know and love.
Krystal Dockery played Cinderella with mounds of enthusiasm, oodles of energy and a huge smile to top it all off with. With an updated style, confident attitude and glitter converse instead of those old glass slippers; she is the modern fairy-tale princess. Prince Charming was played by Karl Queensborough and he too was full of energy and style. The pair had great chemistry not to mention some wonderfully recognisable singing duets from the current charts. Lovable and bubbly Debra Michaels played Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother, who opened the show to a jazzy and sparkly rendition of Fleur East’s ‘Uptown Funk’. Peter Caulfield and Matt Sutton were the two ugly stepsisters, Booty and Licious. This hilarious duo bounced off one another’s energy spectacularly. Sutton’s Booty was hilariously manly and slightly aggressive, which worked in perfect contrast with Caulfield’s more naive and effeminate Licious. An aptly-named Samuel Buttery played the adorable and jolly character of Buttons. With his merry demeanour and sweetie-throwing, he was the closest character to his classic counterpart. He was wonderfully entertaining for the children, throwing goodies, playing the innocent fool and getting everyone shouting out all the classics, like “he’s behind you!”.
I confess that I am still trying to work out whether I was completely oblivious to the pure filth of jokes in Pantomimes growing up or whether they have become ruder in the recent years. Either way, the adult humour in this show was fantastic, and many a time I was curled up in my seat laughing while children in the row in front of me were utterly confused as to why all the adults in the room were bent double in their seats.
Sara Crowe played Madame Woo, Cinderella’s evil Stepmother. At the beginning of the show the Lyric’s Artistic Director Sean Holmes stood on stage to inform the audience that, due to an unfortunate accident, Crowe would have to be in a wheelchair for the duration of this evening’s performance. Well, what can I say? Actors are always told to use unfortunate incidents to their advantage and try to create something new and exciting out of a mistake or inconvenience that has occurred. Crowe did just that, and frankly, it was hilarious. Like a true professional she incorporated her wheelchair into the show triumphantly and if I had not been informed prior, that this had been an accident, I would have praised the interesting character choice! I wish Crowe a speedy recovery but must admit that I hope the wheelchair stays in the show for the foreseeable future because it simply fit in so well with the fresh, modern twist to this fairy-tale. Putting her accident aside however, Crowe was excellent. Eccentric and with elements of Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous, she again played much of her humour to the adults in the room while remaining gloriously evil to the younger audience members.
This was a fresh, stimulating and contemporary Pantomime, with no need for big names and gimmicks. It simply didn’t require them because of the way the whole show had been designed for modern families. If you’re not really into the classic Pantomime, then I urge you to give this one a go, and if you’re a Panto lover already then go and see it too because it’s simply that good! Thoroughly enjoyable for people of all ages, and with so many wonderful Christmassy surprises I challenge even Scrooge to not be a fan!
Cinderella is playing at the Lyric Hammersmith until 3 January 2016. For more information and tickets, see the Lyric Hammersmith website.