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REVIEW: Cinderella at Durham Gala

Durham Gala
Until Saturday 6 January 2024

The North East pantomime season has begun with the usual curtain raiser - the Durham Gala production. This is a family friendly production that is full of music. It sticks to the story and this pleases the children in the audience. The hard working north east cast deserved the applause at the end.

Starting with a song, the audience are introduced to Buttons, Jude Nelson is the open and friendly face that you need in this role. She gives the audience a simple greeting to use when she appears (too often these "when I come on" routines can be too complicated for the youngsters) and introduces Charlotte Bradley as (Cinder)Ella. A quick bit of exposition explains that her Dad has married and then died in a mysterious accident, leaving No Place Hall to her step mother  (Kris Manuel) and her step-sisters.
Ella is supported by her friend Pipsqueak (Daniel Butcher) - a mouse developing a stand up routine with very cheesy cheese jokes. Her step sisters cause them problems but seem more tragic than grotesque. Sarah Boulter is the very 2023 Monophobia, more worried about maintaining/building up her followers online than enjoying life. Meanwhile Rosie Stancliffe is Philophobia who keeps her head in books but makes up long words in order to claim to be more intelligent than her sibling. In setting these characters slightly differently to the norm gives both talented actors a chance to do something different with the role to the standard panto stereotype. 
The feel of the set and costumes had the feel of the classic Ladybird books. This goes down to the Prince (Lewis Kennedy) and his servant Dandini (Josh Betteridge).
Buttons is trying to develop magic skills which, like the late great Tommy Cooper, start off simple/failing and build up into something special.
Bouncing around on a flying moon is Jessica Brady as the Fairy Godmother. She has a great singing voice and this is put to good use.
On the night we attended the cast faced a tough audience. They persevered to get the audience to get involved with booing, singing and dancing. In this regard it was a strange night. The jokes will probably land differently on another night. Full marks for the effort in trying to make the show interactive.

Cinderella has all of the elements you'd expect in a pantomime but often with a twist. The messy scene and the take off scene don't re-tread the usual formula. The dancers, likewise, are much more than window dressing and get involved in many of the scenes. This is a fun panto with a charming cast that it is safe to take both the youngsters and the grand parents too. There is always a place for such a show.

Review: Stephen Oliver
Photos: Lee Dobson


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