It has, quite rightly, been pointed out to the Jolly Lion that the TOADS Pantomime, ‘Sleeping Beauty‘, was not actually his first of the season. This is very true, as on 7 December there was a Pantomime that appears to have been left out of my ramblings and reviews, so let me apologise for the delay and share my thoughts on the PCSC Pantomime, ‘Cinderella’.
For a couple of nights in early December, the Faculty of Expressive Arts and Design Technology at the Paignton Community and Sports College take over the Palace Theatre, Paignton for their annual pantomime.
It’s a new way for the Jolly Lion to see theatre, turning up with workmates to support a proud parent – for one night only the thoughts of reviews had been left at home, which may seem strange, but this was an evening packed with laughter for all the right reasons, so why not give you some names to look out for in the future…
As someone who was performing on the stage at the Palace only a few nights before the production, I have to start by saying how wonderful it was to see the theatre full. The place was packed with the families and friends of cast and crew, creating a wonderful atmosphere in an auditorium I’m sadly used to seeing more sparsely populated.
These thoughts soon passed when the curtains opened to reveal one of the most energised pantomimes I have seen. As we meet the population of Stoney Broke, you cannot help but get caught up in the singing and dancing on a stage packed with chorus and dancers. One of the biggest grumbles you hear with directors in amateur pantomimes is trying to get the chorus to smile, but there were no such troubles here. The sense of fun was infectious, and came mostly from a chorus who always looked happy, interested and like they were having the time of their lives.
I always try to limit my comments on song and dance because I have no experience of these things short of shouting abuse at X Factor and Strictly judges when I think they’re wrong, but everything looked bright and full of energy from where I was sat, and I’m reliable informed by people I was sat with that I saw some great choreography and dance in a mixture of styles.
At the centre of the show was Rebecca Lamburn as Cinderella, who played a principal girl that will rival any others I see this festive season (a comment that could be made for any of the principals in this production). She did not waste this opportunity to showcase a range of performance skills, bringing song and dance alongside a simple characterisation that led to her becoming every part the princess when the time came.
For a love story, every Cinders needs her Prince Charming, played by Rebekah Meyler, who was everything a principal boy should be. Together with her Dandini, played by Lauren Round, they were the perfect pair of thigh-slapping chaps, swapping identities to allow Charming the chance to walk around the common folk to find her village girl. In fact, credit to Meyler’s performance this is the first time in years I’ve seen a ‘Cinderella’ where I wanted to see Cinders and Charming together at the end – I can’t help it, but there’s something in me that’s normally hoping that Buttons will get the girl!
Ah, Buttons, played by Connor Cummins. What a character, a young man with a wonderful sense of comedy. When on stage alone he had complete control of his audience with a strong stage presence. He brought a delightful lovestruck character every time he was on stage with Cinderella, which was so fantastically wet, you knew from the start he wasn’t going to get the girl – a very funny performance.
When it came to Pantomime Dame there was double trouble, with ugly sisters Gertrude and Grizelda played by Peter Hubble and Jack Wills. Hats off to two young men who weren’t afraid to drag up and give it some beans. They were enjoying themselves, the audience loved them and you get the feeling that any teenager who can Dame at that age must have the confidence to achieve anything in life. They were naughty, they were nasty and each was unfazed by the antics of the other, whilst working very well together.
The comedy double act came as Bodgett and Leggett, played by Danielle Fenton and Jade Hughes, who were the builders/bailiffs coming to take Baron Hardup’s home. Between them there was great wordplay and slapstick – loving the inflatable hammer! I know I’m easily pleased, but these characters almost had me crying with laughter as they were falling around the stage.
In support were four characters who each had moments to shine: Baron Hardup, played by Stephen McKeating, who was at his best when caught up with Bodgett and Leggett; Baroness Hardup, played by Emily Court, did a great job of keeping the ugly sisters under control, showing exactly where they got their vamp and camp from. The Fairy Godmother was a nice performance from Charlotte Winfield, who had conduct of most effective sequence in the show, as Cinderella underwent transformation from rags to riches and finally Ryan Harlin as Chambers, who made a lot from little material and had an extraordinary ability to pull focus once on stage.
With lavish sets, costumes and props, this production of ‘Cinderella’ had a look to rival anything else on the events calendar, and with the hard work going on behind the scenes, it was nice to see everyone being acknowledged at the curtain call at the end of the evening.
There was so much talent on display, I can’t help but hope we’ll see some of these faces on the local amateur stage in the years to come whatever they choose to do in life…
Last review from the Palace Theatre: Olivia