Dec 23 2015 | By More

★★★★☆    Charming

Church Hill Theatre: Fri 18 – Mon 28 Dec 2015
Review by Hugh Simpson

Music, dance, fun, bizarre cross-dressing and genuine enjoyment are all in evidence in Edinburgh People’s Theatre’s Cinderella at the Church Hill. In other words, it is a proper old-fashioned pantomime – and a very good one too.

There is a confidence and vivacity to the whole production that makes it attractive to the widest audience, and even the most Scrooge-like would surely be drawn in, however familiar the story, the routines – and even some of the jokes – may be.

Claire Maclean and Anne Mackenzie. Photo: Graham Bell

Claire Maclean and Anne Mackenzie. Photo: Graham Bell

Thanks, no doubt, to the dance background of director Mandy Black, the whole cast display skill and confidence in their movements throughout. Matthew Dunn’s Buttons is a particularly strong comic performance. Resisting any temptation to overdo the self-pity, he nevertheless firmly retains everyones sympathies, not least due to his skilful interaction with the audience. Anne Mackenzie’s Fairy Kindheart also has a real connection with the crowd.

The Ugly Sisters are unusual dame roles in that there is nothing sympathetic about them. This leads even performers who should know better to dial up the sentimentality, making for an unsatisfactory mixture. Thankfully, there is nothing of that in Iain Fraser’s Fifi Hardup, a splendidly grotesque creation. In such company, there is a danger of Gordon Braidwood being overshadowed as sister Frou-Frou, but he more than holds his own with another hugely funny performance.

Lyzzie Dell relishes every boo, hiss and evil moment as Baroness Hardup, but manages to do it with enough of a twinkle to avoid being too disturbing to younger spectators. Graham Bell invests her ineffectual husband Baron Hardup with sufficient humanity that we cheer his small victories over her.

thigh-slapping Principal Boy

The problem with playing the title role in shows like Cinderella is that, for many of the audience, you are the soppy one who keeps interrupting the fun bits. Claire Maclean’s likeable, ever-cheery Cinders does not have that problem, and it is a testament to her strong voice that her songs are not only tolerated but anticipated – even if, as is so often the case, a couple of musical numbers of more recent vintage would have gone down well.

Stephanie Hammond and Claire Maclean Photo Graham Bell

Stephanie Hammond and Claire Maclean. Photo: Graham Bell

It is so cheering to see an old-fashioned, thigh-slapping Principal Boy that it is almost impertinent to point out that Stephanie Hammond’s impressive Prince Charming could have been even better if even bigger and broader. Lynn Cameron’s Dandini certainly knows how judicious exaggeration can provide the desired comic effect.

Throughout, there is a freshness and enjoyment to proceedings that shows director Black understands one of the most important things about pantomime – that some of the audience will be seeing it for the umpteenth time, but some will be seeing it for the first, and it is equally important that they are all catered for.

colour and variety

The chorus and young dancers from the Mandy Black School of Dance are used well to add colour and variety, and there is enough pace to keep everyone entertained. Technically, this is particularly strong – it is easy to imagine productions where a running gag based on a misplaced spotlight would be inadvisable, but it works well here.

A scene from Cinderella. Photo: Graham Bell

Matthew Dunn (Buttons) surrounded by some of his admirers. Photo: Graham Bell

Musical Director Barrie Simcock and drummer Duncan Clark provide sterling musical backing, while EPT’s trademark eye for detail regarding scenery, costumes and props can be most highly praised because of the way it can be taken for granted by the audience.

There are some flaws, of course. James Barry’s off-the-peg script is more than serviceable example, but remains a shade generic. The odd, admittedly clever, interpolated local or topical reference only serves to highlight this. Ten minutes could happily be lost from an overlong first act, while those endless 70s and 80s musical numbers may please the parents but just baffle the children.

However, if you are after a real traditional pantomime, complete with Principal Boy, songsheet, sweet-throwing, groan-inducing jokes and audience participation, this really is the only show in town.

Running time 2 hrs 40 mins.
Church Hill Theatre, 33 Morningside Road, EH10 4DR
Friday 18 – Monday 28 December 2015
Evenings at 7pm on: Fri 18, Tue 22 & Wed 23 December.
Matinees at 11am and 3.30pm on Sat 19 & Sun 27 December
Matinees at 2.30pm on: Sun 20 and Mon 28 December.
Tickets and information from:


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