In the past, pantomimes at the Fairfield Halls in Croydon were staged in the 750-seater Ashcroft Theatre (now renamed the Playhouse). However, Cinderella is the first pantomime to be produced at the complex since its multi-million-pound refurbishment and it’s been moved to the 1800-seater Phoenix Concert Hall. This is a gamble on two levels as they have to fill a lot of seats twice a day and the concert hall is just that and doesn’t have the wings and front cloths a traditional proscenium arch theatre has. However, judging by the attendance yesterday, they’re getting lots of bums on seats and they’ve overcome the staging problem superbly by the use of LED screens and excellent video animation.
The permanent part of the set consists of a number of curved turrets and platforms at various levels. The videos which are projected behind them, are superb taking the audience from Cinderella’s village to inside her home then into the woods and eventually to Prince Charming’s palace. The images are based on children’s storybook drawings and work superbly and seamlessly.
As for the panto itself, apart from the state of the art video projections it’s an old fashioned, traditional production that incorporates all the tropes of pantoland – audience participation, men dressed as women, baddies, goodies and slapstick humour – and for once no smut, innuendo or double-entendres – bravo to Imagine Theatre and writer Will Brenton.
As for the performers, the stand-out is comedian Tim Vine whose puns come at a mile a minute, – sometimes too fast to make a mark but if you miss one, there’s another one on its way straight after. For most of the time it’s the Tim Vine show which means that the other two performers, Ore Oduba and Cat Sandion who are on all the publicity material and the front of the programme are very much underused. Oduba who won Strictly Come Dancing and plays Dandini, gets very few opportunities to strut his stuff and Sandion who’s a presenter on CBeebies plays only a small part in the action as Fairy Godmother. Another underused member of the cast is Katie Cameron as Baroness Hardup who has had a stellar career on Broadway and who’s superb voice is only heard on one song which is a shame.
Apart from Vine, the comedy element comes as it should from the Ugly Sisters, Jason Marc-Williams as Tess and Alistair Barron as Claudia. This experienced pair of dames make the most of their many, colourful over the top costumes and hairdos and keep the pace going through the various set pieces. The cast is completed by Grace Chapman as a delightful Cinderella and local boy James Bisp as the dashing Prince Charming.
If I had one criticism (and it’s a big one), why does the three-piece band have to play at rock concert levels! If I was a parent of one of the hundreds of young children attending the show, I’d be concerned about the noise level which was turned up to twelve let alone Spinal Tap’s legendary eleven! When Oduba was singing his big song, I couldn’t hear one word of the lyrics! But apart from that, Cinderella is an excellent production that children of all ages will love, and it deserves to be a big success.
Review by Alan Fitter
Fairfield Halls and Imagine Theatre bring you the most magical pantomime of them all, Cinderella, to Croydon audiences this Christmas. A brand new exciting production created especially for the Fairfield Halls will star TV star and Strictly winner Ore Oduba making his pantomime debut as Dandini alongside hilarious comedian and presenter Tim Vine as the lovable Buttons and CBeebies favourite Cat Sandion will be making magic as the Fairy Godmother.
This will be a panto like no other featuring stunning special effects, side-splitting comedy, big song and dance numbers and bags of audience participation that will thrill audiences young and old.
Will the evil Ugly Sisters thwart the path of true love for Cinderella and her Prince Charming or will her Fairy Godmother help save the day? Bring the whole family along to the Fairfield Halls this Christmas to find out, you’ll have a ball!