December 2010 marks my second visit to a pantomime at the Theatre Royal Stratford East. Last year they put on Red Riding Hood, and this year writers Trish Cook and Robert Hyman have given Cinderella the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic Stratford treatment.
Anyone who’s familiar with Stratford pantos will recognise the majority of the cast. Michael Bertenshaw returns as the deliciously vile stepmother – part Patsy Stone and part Cruella De Vil you can’t help but boo and hiss along with the kids every time he sways onto the stage. He’s aided in his evil plans by the two ugly sisters, Sugary and Spicy (played by Marcus Ellard and Darren Hart) who strike a pose as leggy Essex girls with buckets of attitude. Set against these bad girls are the sweet Cinders, innocently played by Ayesha Antoine, and the very ‘street’ Buttons and Don Dini (Stratford regulars Stephen Lloyd and Stephen Hoo). Diminutive crooner Shelley Williams also returns as Prince Charming’s tired parent, the Queen, who longs for a life of cocktails, yachts and no regal responsibilities, and the man himself is played with a rather gentle touch by the frankly beautiful Craig Storrod, sporting the flashiest costume and the biggest ‘do’ seen in Stratford since about 1975! Talking of the cast I shouldn’t forget to mention Stratford’s panto staple, the Jamaican mum, who always gets a look-in somewhere. This time it’s the fairy godmother, the voluptuous Sandra Bee, who gets to spend a few uncomfortable scenes flying about on wires!
Set against the backdrop of an eye-wateringly colourful stage set, this year’s production is pretty conventional and perfect for a family night out – the double-entendres are rather underplayed although both the Baron and Buttons are apparently ‘in the closet’ – you’ll just have to watch the show to find out why…
All in all, Cinderella at the Theatre Royal Stratford East is great fun – tickets are available from the theatre’s website at very reasonable prices. Highly recommended.