The Wokingham Paper

REVIEW: Have a ball with Justin Fletcher’s amazing take on Cinderella

Cinderella

Cinderella
The Hexagon 
Until Saturday, January 5, 2020
0118 960 6060
www.whatsonreading.com

ONE word is all it takes and our household now descends into a fit of giggles. 

It all stems from a hilarious scene in The Hexagon’s Cinderella involving the dame, Paul Morse, and his partner-in-crime Justin Fletcher. To say which word would spoil the joke, but it is the only one spoken during this slapstick exchange that shows a comic partnership at the very height of its powers. 

And it’s just one of the many, many highlights of the show which opened on Saturday, December 7. 

Justin – well-known as Mr Tumble on CBeebies – has turned to writing duties for the first time, but you’d never know. The script is peppered with the right amount of humour, good-natured banter and some great set pieces. 

This stunning family-friendly show moves along at a good pace, never sagging, it’s just delightful fun. 

Imagine Theatre, which produces the show, has this year decided wisely to keep the partnership between Justin and Paul going – Paul is Nanny Cuddles, while Justin is Buttons – and this means that they solve the problem of the Ugly Sisters, traditionally male grotesques, by casting them as wicked stepsisters. 

Played by real-life friends Emma Jane Wylde and Kate Eaves, they are clearly having a ball portraying these scheming, vile, manipulative and vain characters so far removed from their real-life alter egos. 

The other double act in the show is Carl Tracey’s Prince Charming (and boy, is he charming) and Adam Pettigrew as Dandini. They are believable and likeable: it makes the romance with Cinderella convincing and also frees them up to enjoy some good comic moments together and with the rest of the cast. 

Cinderella is unusual in the pantomime tradition in that it doesn’t have a big baddie as such, just the Ugly Sisters and wicked stepmother. This means the end of the first act is not a deadly peril cliffhanger, but the rags to riches transformation of Cinderella. 

If you’re not laughing over THAT word, you’ll be talking about the horse and carriage. 

Imagine have this year pulled out all the stops to ensure it is a memorable spectacle: Gracie Johnson’s look of wonder and her powerful voice totally sell the surprise and delight on Cinderella’s face as she does indeed go to the ball. 

Rachel Delooze has possibly the hardest role: she plays both the Wicked Stepmother and the Fairy Godmother. They are totally different characters and Rachel’s acting ensures that you never see them as two sides of the same coin. A wonderful performance. 

The cast is completed by the ensemble, a new line-up this year of Bex Allingham, Honor O’Neill, Luca Figarazzi and Steven Garrod. Accompanied by the junior dancers – cast from open auditions in the summer – they smile, sparkle and shine through every moment. They give it their all and add to the spectacle. 

Justin has also attempted to make the pantomime more accessible. In recent years The Hexagon has introduced signed and relaxed performances for deaf and autistic children, but here the show goes further.

Cinderella and Prince Charming sign as they sing to each other – a joyous sight – and there are several moments of pure silent slapstick comedy, which bring the house down. Some of it might be as old as the hills, but for many in the audience, deprived of reruns of Harold Lloyd and Laurel and Hardy on the idiot’s lantern, this will be new. 

You can tell that the cast are having as much of a ball as we are as they struggle to keep straight faces with the jokes and good humour.

Added to that, Justin’s many fans are welcomed by a supportive Hexagon team – legends all. 

The sets are sumptuous. The costumes are full of sparkle. The musicians are brilliant. 

Cinderella is fabulous festive fun for all ages, the jokes will get you laughing, and the songs will get you clapping: You won’t want the magic to end. Book a ticket, you’ll have a ball.

The Hexagon has announced that next year’s panto will be Beauty and The Beast, and will once again star Justin Fletcher.

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