When the call went out at amble HQ requesting a reviewer for Tip Top Productions’ latest pantomime, my hand shot up in the air. Then, I backtracked a bit, pretended to check my calendar and tried to regain that cool reputation I’ve earned around the office*
It may not win me social points, but I’m excited by the idea of a good old fashioned panto at Christmas. My once-a-year childhood festive visits to the theatre set my imagination on fire. I loved the music, colours and getting to shout as loud as I wanted because it was actually acceptable and encouraged (hurrah). They were my gateway to a lifelong love of live performance.
The Forum Studio Theatre is 140 seater venue that’s hidden up a stairwell on Hamilton Place. It’s a small and intimate space, where the audience can feel part of the action – the ideal setting for this type of interactive show.
‘Don’t be so mean!’ cries the middle-aged lady in the front row as the ugly sisters taunt Cinderella to rip up her ticket to the ball.
‘Don’t do it!’ screams the little boy behind. Earlier, he’d been cheekily telling Buttons not to sing and giving him the thumbs down. But, now he’s fully engrossed in the story and unable to control his fury at the treatment of poor ol’ Cinders.
It’s this pure joy and adrenaline that makes panto brilliant. And, the cast do an exceptional job of keeping the energy up for the duration of the, rather long evening (it’s nearly two and a half hours with intervals).
The voice that combines with Joe Woolford’s expressive eyebrows was perfect for a Prince Charming seeking a girl in Rosie’s. Andrew Rawlinson-Heath does a good job as his trusted cockney side kick, and if I were Cinders I’d have married Dan Ellis’ adorable Buttons. She’d have way more fun, and he’s simply superb with the children.
Kevin Dewsbury and Ethan Holmes’ ugly sisters handle hecklers with slick retaliation. Don’t sit in the front row if you’re shy as I promise they will get you. I thought they went too far with insults to one woman, but she didn’t seem to mind.
Peter Swingler’s script is light on story and a bit too heavy on the one-liners for me. A few songs didn’t quite hit the mark. But, the music is lively, the costumes are bold and the colourful cartoon staging of Chester is really fun. So, who cares about the flaws. Even the Dads who don’t want to be there were smiling and waving by the end.
I love that this excellent studio space exists in our city. It has potential to host some good, affordable theatre throughout the year. So, let’s support it. Don’t take a first date along of course – that would be incredibly weird. But, it’s a good family night out and it’s half the price of Storyhouse’s offering. The little people in your life are sure to enjoy it, and maybe you will too.
Cinderella is playing at The Forum Studio Theatre until 5th January 2018. Tickets are £11 for adults, £9 for children or a family ticket is £37. For more information please see Tip Top Productions website.
*This may not be entirely true.