Thursday, 2 January 2020

REVIEW: Cinderella at the Hexagon, Reading


Cinderella is the best pantomime title with a delightfully familiar story of good overcoming evil in family conflict and while the writers of the Lyric Hammersmith and Southampton NST felt the need to play with the story, Justin Fletcher sticks to a straight traditional retelling of the tale in his tenth appearance at Hexagon Pantomime. The result is a gently paced Christmas treat for the young families of Reading.

Fletcher, better known to his young audience as Mr Tumbles as well as writing the script stars as Buttons and benefits from director Stephen Boden, the man behind the producers Imagine, and Adrian Edmeades as choreographer ensuring a balanced mix of song, dance and Panto business in a disciplined controlled production with an even pace and good use of all the cast members. Fletcher responds by doing what he does best charmingly and un-aggressively engages the audience in an effortless way.

He is matched, as in the last six years with Paul Morse as the Dame, Nurse Cuddles who wins everyone over with his shout out "if you are feeling down and, in a muddle, all you need is a nanny cuddle". When they combine in the traditional pantomime business their experience of working together is clear. When they decorate the Boudoir in the annual normal slosh scene, they make it look easy but it is perfectly timed and in the usual Ghost bench scene and 12 days of Christmas routines they execute the planned mayhem well. However, it is in the entertainment at the Ball that they really excel with a beautifully judged balloon dance by Busty Darcell and Rudolph Nurofen which has audiences in stitches by the simplest of dance steps and the word Balloon. 

Rachel Delooze gets to play both good and evil as the Fairy Godmother (in a strange curly wig) and the evil stepmother, Madame Botemme (in a huge bouffant wig) and looks and sounds great and combines well with the two step sisters , Kate Eaves and Emma Jane Wylde who are less ugly and more just like naughty sloane rangers on a day out from London. 

As is so often the case these days Cinderella (Gracie Johnson), The Prince (Carl Tracey) and Dandini (Adam Pettigrew) get less stage time than the rest although Dandini does get used in the ghost bench and Cinders in the 12 days but all do well in clear strong vocals.

The staging is pretty and colourful with a gorgeous glittery front portal for the wide stage and an attractive transformation Ballet from kitchen to the horse drawn carriage that flies up over the forestage with a simple but effective costume switch. It is often the scene that defines the title and it is the case here, simple magical and effective.

Throughout there are good dance routines from the ensemble and juveniles with excellent song choices including "Blue suede shoes", "Sisters are doing it ", "Let me Entertain you" and "Opposite your smile" with a good band of four and an excellent sound mix. 

If you are looking for a traditional young family friendly Christmas treat, then look no further than this effortless good-looking production that will easily hold attention of anyone from three years up.

Review by Nick Wayne

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Stalls Row P | Price of Ticket: £32
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