It’s that time of the year again where Panto’s are a festive treat at many theatres across the country, and The Orchard Theatre is no exception. Their lively and energetic version of Cinderella is sure to bring a smile to even the oldest of children (and let’s not forget those adults too).

I had recently been complaining about my lack of festival cheer for the start of December, and the inevitable build up to Christmas. The carols had started before Halloween, superstores were already rolling out their mince pies, and I was turning inwardly to become the next Scrouge. However, all was not lost, as I left The Orchard Theatre with a feeling of “get me a christmas tree, and some leg slapping panto – it’s nearly Christmas” feeling. (If that feeling is possible?) – I’ve been converted!

Every Panto has that of a ‘star’, a well known figure of entertainment to bring the audiences in, and to my delight, The Orchard have roped in Lesley Joseph as the Fairy Godmother. Best known for her TV appearances as Dorien Green, in the sitcom Birds of a Feather, Joseph dons her sparkling dress to bring a touch of magic to Cinderella.

The art of the Pantomime is a great British tradition spanning many years. We’ve managed to develop this unique blend of humour and spirit around the Christmas period with such ease, that going to the local Panto is often considered a must thing. Yet, for me, Pantomimes are so much more.

Offering the chance to readily comment upon the social standards and situations of the time, Pantomimes are a social comment upon the world, stuck in a fabulous frock and thrown together with glitter. Joseph’s disguise as Amy Winehouse during the ball scene and children dressed as John and Edward (Jedward) from X-Factor, couldn’t stress this enough. How on form with todays media trends.

This production of Cinderella is hilariously funny, aided greatly by Matt Slack as Buttons. His energetic and rambling off the script comments, even had his fellow actors laughing, as we as an audience hanging onto his every line. He surely fits the part of the comic fool.

Cinderella, of course wouldn’t be complete without two ugly-sisters, and they don’t come any uglier than Trinny and Susannah, played grotesquely by David Robbins and Martin Ramsdin. It is to be expected during pantomimes for lavish and outrageous costumes so hats off to Robbins and Ramsdin who actually make all of the ugly-sisters outfits themselves. From Christmas Puddings, to two foot high wigs – their return to the stage brought a treat to the eyes every time!

It’s odd to look back to my childhood and see the pantos in a distant haze in my memory. Yet one thing I am sure of is that they are miles behind the technology and use of stage trickery and design that was used in this Cinderella. None more so than in the beautiful flying horse and carriage that takes Cinderella to the ball. Despite knowing that they hadn’t strapped wings onto a real horse, (although tempting I’m sure..) I did have to do a double take as to if the horse was real. We’ve seen a boom in the use of puppetry recently in performances and it is wonderful to see then flying horse and carriage done in a moving puppet fashion.

Whilst some of the vocals aren’t particularly strong in some of the solo songs, the general atmosphere and excitement of Cinderella out does any musical aspect. With Laura Evans playing the part of Cinderella as soft and warming paired with the Prince Charming, they deliever the love story on form.

The Orchard Theatre have created an entertaining night for all the family, and it felt good to finally let off some steam by shouting madly “Oh yes we did” – how I’d love to shout out during some of the performances I’ve seen in the past year! If you’re slightly older than a child, fear not… there are plenty of aside rude jokes to keep you chuckling along.

Cinderella runs at the Orchard Theatre until 10th January 2010. Book online via their website.