Pantomimes are great, the long-standing British tradition of watching people parade around on stage in drag, making ridiculous innuendos, with a minimal effort from the audience other than the odd ‘oh no you didn’t!’ always tends to be a winner for me. The 2018 People’s Theatre production of Cinderella continued that tradition to some extent, but there were areas where it fell short for me.
It opened with the La La Land song ‘Another day of sun’ but the words were changed to relate to Newcastle as the setting for the fairytale was Heatonville, “where the sun always shines”. Although the beat of the words didn’t match the rhythms of the song, this kept up the slightly cringey tradition of making panto stories more regionally relevant depending on where they’re performed.
I was confused by the lack of actual Geordie accents in the production, being used to regional accents and their charm in Panto it didn’t make sense to me that Buttons was the only Geordie, and everyone else had very southern accents. It was also very tame jokes-wise compared to some of the pantomimes I have previously seen; I felt something was lost in this. As a child I pondered as to why adults laughed at certain bits that I didn’t find funny, but it builds character and gives something for adults to laugh about instead of all the laughs being directed at kids.[pullquote]As ever with pantomimes, Cinderella was quite chaotic production[/pullquote]
Our hearts went out to the actor who played Buttons who was probably too poorly to have performed, but stole the show anyway. His illness, particularly the way he soldiered through singing ‘nothing’s gonna bring me down’ added to the sympathy the audience felt towards Buttons, who we just wanted to have lemsip and a quick nap.
Something that worked really well was the amount of children who were apart of the production, there must have been over 40, playing the parts of the mice and animals. They danced an adorable ballet routine to Swan Lake dressed as forest animals which was so well attempted, and provided the ‘cute factor’. This was contrasted with a very strange fox dance number, where the Prince’s huntsmen danced alongside adults dressed as foxes, the dancing here was not its best and struck me as quite random, they also missed a trick here in not making a joke about Conservatives and fox- hunting legislation considering they made a couple of references to Theresa May throughout.
The production contained some questionable song choices aside from the opening La la land number, they were some unrecognisable songs that didn’t add much to the performance and then two Greatest Showman songs. The prince was definitely the stand-out singer in the show, with impressive talent for an amateur production. Maybe some Abba songs would’ve been a nice addition to the song list for topicality to compliment the Greatest Showman in catering to the family audience.
As ever with pantomimes, Cinderella was quite chaotic production. There were elements of it that didn’t work so well, such as the clock displaying the wrong time at midnight when Cinderella’s iconic carriage turns back into a pumpkin. However, these mishaps and the ad-libbed banter between audience and performers that comes as a result of them are what make pantomimes what they are. Not perfect, but all in all I definitely enjoyed myself in spite of the production’s flaws, but the sing- along to ‘baby shark’ meant I was gasping for pint afterwards.