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Corn Exchange - Cinderella

30th November 2012 to 6th January 2013.

Review from the Newbury Weekly News and British Theatre Guide.

Having a ball

Outlandish costumes and plenty of audience participation in Cinderella

Cinderella, at the Corn Exchange until January 6

The Corn Exchange and Hiss and Boo have a resounding success on their hands with this year’s fun-filled family pantomime Cinderella written and directed by Phil Willmott, a joyous start to the festive season.

There was a real buzz in the decorated auditorium as youngsters waving their colourful swirling wands and their families eagerly awaited the start.

It’s largely a new cast this year, which is a refreshing change, and to the strains of the Dam Busters March, the genial, loveable Bea Holland, our feisty Fairy Godmother or FG, as she likes to be called, arrived in a puff of smoke, all glittery and wearing a pink fighter pilot’s helmet, and soon establisheed a wonderful rapport with the audience.

Amy Murray was a splendid Buttons - in this panto in the guise of a mouse. She was totally convincing and danced beautifully. The sub plot of a romance with a lady mouse was an inspired touch.

We were soon transported by 'wish power' to Newbury Bottom where the orphans had been staying at Hardup Hall where we met Billy Bumpkin with his catchphrase “alright my lovers” with the audience enthusiastically responding “Alright Billy”. Matthew Grace has become an institution in this role and he just gets better each year.

Making their panto debuts were the delightful Helena Sowe as Cinderella and the impressive Stephen Kirwan as the handsome Prince Charming. They both sang and danced superbly well and, of course, fell in love.

Natalia Campbell - in sequined gown with feather collar - was the sexiest wicked stepmother that I’ve seen, looking all the world like Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmatians, and by gosh can she do a mean mamba, a dynamic performance throughout.

Her outrageous daughters, Tia (Richard Foster-King) and Maria (Joseph Wicks), are the consummate Ugly Sisters as they bicker and fight with each other and make Cinderella’s life a total misery. Their outlandish costumes were an absolute delight.

There was good support from Jack Beatson as Fred the footman and the young company of dancers, with slick inventive choreography by Holly Hughes.

All the traditional elements of panto were there in abundance including a slapstick routine, the ghost sketch, oodles of audience participation and a magical transformation scene revealing Cinderella’s glass coach.

The happy ending came as the whole audience enthusiastically learnt a song to sing at Cinderella’s wedding. Mark Aspinall’s lively, rich score of songs hit the right note and Guy Dickens’ inventive lighting was spot on. Special mention must go to James Maciver’s costumes that were utterly fabulous and gave the show a sparkling, professional sheen.

The Corn Exchange has built up a loyal following for its Christmas pantomimes and some of the audience were queuing at the box office during the interval to buy tickets for next year’s Jack and the Beanstalk, praise indeed.

This was an absolute cracker of a show that was thoroughly enjoyed by all and truly celebrates the spirit of Christmas. Highly recommended.


There are reviews in WhatsOnStage ("it’s too long and needs some re-writes and tightening, but it’s ridiculously good fun, and the cast work their socks off" - 3 stars), The Stage ("the miscellany takes the invention of new characters a tad too far... I defy any child not to be confused if they were expecting the time-honoured tale of Cinderella... that said, there is enough colour and energy to pull the show along") and the Windsor Observer ("Cinderella has everything you would expect from a pantomime and quite a few unexpected things too")(same review in the Reading Chronicle).