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REVIEW: Cinderella at South Hill Park

Cinderella
Cinderella at South Hill Park: the dance off

THE STORY of Cinderella needs little introduction. Girl meets boy, boy meets girl, ugly sisters get in the way of love and you have a ball getting to the grand finale.

It’s one of the most magical of pantomimes and, with no real big baddy, it’s truly suitable for all ages.

South Hill Park’s take on the classic tale is very traditional – it could easily have been the original 1804 performance in Drury Lane, London.

Crucially, the children in the audience had a good time. The Brownies and Guides in the audience were joining in with gusto for the ‘Hello Buttons’ moments and it left one pining for more of this.

The cast are incredibly talented.

Both Rose Crawforth (Cinderella) and Jessica Niles (Fairy Godmother) excel in their roles, especially in their big musical numbers – no surprise to learn that Crawforth has appeared on BBC Radio 2’s Friday Night Is Music Night, while Niles sang on Channel 5’s Don’t Stop Believing.

Kristian Cunningham gave us his Buttons. He has incredible comic timing and will surely go far: his take on Cinderella’s lovestruck friend managed the right amount of pathos and humour and he had the audience in the palm of his hands.  

The dames (Brad Clapson and Daniel Cane) had their moments, including an inspired scene with Buttons playing their reflections in the mirror, but throughout the show, the director’s choices meant that it felt as if they were being held back in their grotesqueness. They also had a very limited wardrobe: they needed more outfits and a hint of outrageousness.

Cinderella
Buttons tries to save Cinderella’s ball invitation at South Hill Park’s pantomime

Unusually, Prince Charming was played by a man, the very talented Steve Banks. His early scenes with Cinderella were great and the audience were willing him on as he tried to find his bride.

The show, not having the same budget as bigger theatres, needed the audience to use their imaginations for some moments, including the pumpkin to coach transformation scene and Cinderella getting to and from the ball.

And instead of curtain up and down for scene changes, the cast carried out the work during musical cues, slowing some of the action up.

Cinderella
There’s a lot of dancing in Cinderella

The second act launched with the ball, a dance-off between Buttons and the Ugly Sisters. It started well, but then dragged on: it could have lost two or three dances. It also meant the impact of the Prince falling for Cinderella – Princess Crystal – was lost: too much singing and dancing at the ball immediately followed by more singing and dancing.

This Cinderella is not a big-budget show with all-star names. That’s not what South Hill Park does. No, this is a more intimate affair that families will enjoy as part of their Christmas experience.   

Cinderella is at South Hill Park until January 3. For more details, or to book tickets, visit South Hill Park’s website

Cinderella
The big finish – Cinderella marries her prince at South Hill Park’s Christmas play
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