A Panto with Panache: ‘Cinderella’ at Bratton Clovelly: 9-11th February 2012

Cinderella, A French Fairy Tale

A review by Ron Wawman…

Didn’t they do well? Oh, yes they did! So sorry, I’m still in panto mode.

To most of us pantomime appears deceptively easy – but in reality the tradition presents a huge challenge, particularly when staged by a drama group drawn from a relatively small community base. For Red Spider Company, the situation has been further complicated by a long-standing dearth of musical expertise other than in community plays, when it has been under professional musical direction. So how was it that the Company pulled off such a resounding success? It was partly down to an ingenious script packed full of witty dialogue ably exploited by a cast already familiar with Mike Ingham’s style. It was also helped by the catty Hinge and Bracket type interchange given to the two narrator ‘ladies.’ One of their tasks was to explain to us that this was not so much a panto as an elegantly dramatised  French fairy story – or was it the other way round? Oh, yes it was! There I go again, sorry.

But for me it was the way in which, right from the word go, there was music to gently carry us off into an enchanted world.  The opening song, beautifully sung by none other than the director, Susanne Clayton, was stunningly atmospheric. It, like much of the other music was actually written by our own Jeff Boxall, who in the programme is simply listed as the musical director. Jeff, all I can say is – we want more. Oh, yes we do! Sorry, at it again.

That’s enough of atmosphere. For me, this unquestionably was panto. There was a feisty little Buttons, or was it Boutons, who for some mysterious reasons everyone kept calling ‘old man’ – when he was neither. As for the Hardup household, you would not wish to meet up with that lot in Deepway on a dark night. No, seriously, the interaction between the Baroness, her ugly daughters and her funny little niece was a joy to behold, while their energetic rendition of Old Fashioned Millionaire was a lively contrast with the other, gentler, music. What can I say about the King and Queen?  It was easy to see who wore the trousers and when I remembered that in real life they are husband and wife, I found myself feeling quite sorry for Larry. It turned out that Jeff Boxall had rather more to do than sort out the music. His oily Lord Chancellor was another one you would not want to meet in Deepway. As for the Fairy Grandmother, poor soul – delightfully forgetful and incompetent, but, secretly, I hope I’ve got one a teensy bit like that looking down on me!

Finally the Principals. I am so glad I was never cast in that sort of role. Much more fun being a villain – or villainess, as in the Hardup family. But Prince Charming was just that – charming. As for Cinders, one of Red Spider’s new discoveries, I found myself thinking ‘how sweet,’ but also ‘how spirited!’ What more could you ask of a princess? If the shoe fits…

So there you have it. Another emphatic first for the Spiders and another pinnacle. Oh, yes it was!!

Images from the stage and behind the scenes.
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