DeeDee Doke reviews Cinderella

by Kattreya Scheurer-Smith and Stephen Scheurer-Smith
performed by Waterbeach Theatre Company
directed by Kattreya Scheurer-Smith

What makes a pantomime in the great British tradition truly authentic? Some might say that a continuous flow of bad puns and obvious jokes give the panto its heart and soul. For others, it's the extreme costumes, or the audience sing-songs, or perhaps the gleeful mixing up of the sexes with a young woman playing the hero and a man (generally) playing the primary butt of jokes and in female form, the Dame.

For this transplanted panto aficionado, a panto needs the following to be truly authentic:

The rest of the trappings are optional, and Waterbeach Theatre Company opted instead to stage this year's pantomime, Cinderella, as low on extreme costumes and set, but filled with bad - and funny -- jokes and puns, high spirits, enthusiastic characters and fresh approaches to the tradition.

As directed by the prolific Kattreya Scheurer-Smith, who also co-wrote the script with her father Stephen, this Cinderella had an entirely female cast and no dame. Another twist, which really was quite effective, was to showcase the youngest members of the audience during the first act instead of waiting until the second. This fully engaged the little ones early on and left them clamouring for more throughout the show, as opposed to leaving their participation until late in the game when many get restless.

This year has been a barnstormer for villainesses in Cinderella productions and Waterbeach's entertainment follows this trend: in this show, the heroine's stupid and vain stepsisters Sharon (Clare McDonald) and Tracy (Vicky Butt) just about steal the show -- not unlike in Andrew Lloyd Webber's take on this fairy tale now reopening in London, in which Cinderella's stepmother and (spoiler alert) Prince Charming's mother are the most fabulous characters in the show.

But the audience are also charmed by the sweet and kind Cinderella (Kayleigh Orrock), and twinkling-eyed, thigh-slapping Prince Charming (Jess Hamill), along with Buttons (Katherine Maltby), who harbours an unrequited love for Cinderella. However, Buttons is the unknowing, unwitting focus of a bit of unrequited love himself from the sparkling Fairy Godmother (Emma Bolton-Luckie) who prepares Cinders to take on the role of a mysterious princess for the ball.

A very smiley ensemble of Christine Easterfield, Jade Bushell and Tina D'Angelo provided the glue for this good-humoured adventure in pantomime minimalism.

Frankly, I quite enjoyed the minimalist approach, and expect that the many parents in attendance probably did too, especially since the show came in under two hours.

The company worked hard to overcome a couple of sound slips on the night, and costumer Joy Sinclair waved her magic wand once again to create some divinely mad looks for stepsisters Sharon and Tracy. A green wig for Tracy that replicated TV character Marge Simpson's Marie Antoinette-esque coiffeur fitted right into the laugh-ready costuming visuals. Greater interest in minimalism as a production approach is likely to gain popularity in local theatre over the next few years, because of tightening budgets, fewer volunteers and difficulties with venues. But it's no bad thing, and fuels perhaps even greater creativity.

DeeDee Doke.
NODA East, Assistant Regional Representative District 4S

Waterbeach Theatre Company
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Cambridge CB25 9JU

Phone: 01223 880023

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