National Operatic & Dramatic Association (London Region) Review

Thank you for inviting me to report on this year’s panto, Cinderella.  You all, and most especially your director Sarah Golding, really understand what a good pantomime is all about and all your audience, quite rightly, loved it.  Nice to see a full house of course which always aids the players to reach new heights!  Also, the usual dreaded H & S announcement was part of the show, this always works well.  Plus, as my young companion said, it was very good to have a table to put things on, so thank you for our special table for just the two of us.

First impressions are so important and I loved your beautifully lit and decorated pros arch and the apron stage.  Everything about this was first rate and added so much to our anticipation of what was to come, especially the large poster advertising the Prince’s forthcoming ball.  You also achieved a good level of audience involvement by judicious use of the auditorium doors which gave lots of opportunities for interaction, although my companion was not the only young member of the audience who was rather surprised that two packets of sweets were presented to two individual children instead of the more usual sweetie scattering amongst the younger members of the audience.

Congratulations, Sarah, on adding a lot of unique touches which I understand were unscripted in the original pantomime.  Just two examples were, I think, collecting virtual Pokémon characters, a recent craze, which resonated with the audience.  In addition, making the broker’s men, Snitch and Snatch, into Laurel and Hardy, complete with a few bars of their signature tune and their distinctive costumes worked very well – even the younger members of the audience seemed to recognize the characters.

Your MD, Toby Stafford-Allen, and the band provided a good accompaniment to the songs – it was all seamless and worked very well.

Alan Caesar-Gordon and his crew made the scene changes smooth.  The transformation scene, which can be tricky on a small stage, worked well too.

Lighting in the very capable charge of Les Brewer was appropriate, and the sound (Ollie Bentley) was also good with music and singers well balanced.  Ollie also operated the pyros and the streamers at the end were particularly impressive.

Costumes this time were the responsibility of Ruth Corner and Liz Peskin and this was another outstanding area with some very good variations on the norm, such as a most impressive collar for Lady Devilia – congratulations to Suzie Q DeMarco for this element.

Make up and wigs – Suzie again with Helen Capewell.  Dandini’s stubble was different and marked ‘him’ out from the look-alike Prince well.  The rosy cheeks of the cast were in true panto tradition too.  My only niggle with the wigs was that Ugly Sister Beryl’s schoolgirl plaits did not mask the actor’s own short back and sides under a rather small hat.

The programme was colourful and the inclusion of some puzzles for children to look at was excellent.  No credit for the compiler though?  Or did I miss it?

Props, Janeta Kling and Joan Carr were also appropriate and worked well.

The part of Cinderella was double cast and while I understood Sarah’s point that both girls were equally good so she wanted to give them both the chance to play the role.  I am not so sure that this was a completely good idea.  I saw Orla Bentley, so I cannot comment on Sophie Webster’s performance, but I felt that some of the songs chosen for Orla did not really suit her voice and it may well have been that they worked better for Sophie.  Great singing voices are not really necessary in panto and, Orla, you acted very well indeed and certainly looked the part.

Judging by the fact that Sophie and Eleanor Patterson look so alike I realized that they must be sisters, twins even?  Anyway, they took on the roles of Prince Charming and Dandini and played them well.  Sophie, I see that you also took on the job of choreographer, assisted by another talented member of the Patterson clan, Kate, and you both achieved some very good dance routines.

Two dames in this version of Cinderella instead of the usual three and Neil Goulder and Simon Patterson played Beryl and Cheryl with great gusto.  Where would this panto have been without you five Pattersons I ask myself?!  Both the ‘Uglies’ also managed some ad libs in response to audience heckling.

As the Wicked Stepmother, Lady Devilia, Lucy Shirley made the most of this baddie role.

Steve Cubbage made a good job of Buttons and played him with comic zeal.

Janeta Kling and Danae Manger filled the skin of the pantomime horse to great effect.

Nic Barton’s Baron Hardup showed very good comic timing.

In the role of Fairy Godmother, Kate Patterson, the second half of the choreography team, both moved and acted well.

Snitch and Snatch were excellent.  Ruth Corner really nailed the ‘Hardy’ part of the duo and the Snatch I saw was Jess Sutton, sorry Holly Golding that I did not see your version but I am sure you were equally good.  Jess, you too got Laurel’s mannerisms off to a tee.  Well done.

Pokehunter, Jane Rawlinson, a cameo role but one really loved by the young audience.

I loved the idea of trainee fairy godmothers and Lila Evans-Titre, Matilda Patterson and Poppy Pearsall were all excellent.

The entire cast from the smallest member of the chorus to all the principals had so much enthusiasm, energy and verve – you all put everything into your performance.  Many congratulations to you all.

Judith Watsham
Regional Rep NODA London 11 and 11A