The AKADi Magazine team (Abena Sεwaa and KAmo) went to see the penultimate showing of the pantomime ‘Cinderella’ at the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre in West London in January. Abena gives her highlights and verdict of the show.
We'd never been to a matinee but in my mind, I thought it would be a sedate way to ease ourselves back into the New Year. How wrong I was - but looking back on the day, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
For me, the entertainment started even before the pantomime commenced. We sat behind a spirited bunch of seven-year-old girls – many of whom were dressed as princesses and were so excited about watching the pantomime. We found out later that they were there because one of the girls was celebrating her birthday.
The theatre hall was packed with a good mix of children and adults. And what I loved about this version of Cinderella was there was enough comedy, innuendo, and clever dialogue to entertain both age groups.
If you are well versed in the Cinderella story, this version – written by Vikki Stone and directed by Tonderai Munyevu – puts a spin on a well-loved classic.
Cinderella the entrepreneur
Although – like the popular story - Cinderella (played by Tilly La Belle Yengo) lives in the cellar with rodents and still has to cater for her horrible stepsisters Muffy and Gusset (Charlie Cameron and Meghan Treadway) and step-mum (Emmanuel Akwafo), she also has some hidden talents that we do not see in the original.
Cinderella’s rodent friends inspire an entrepreneurial streak in her and she plugs a gap in the retail market by making woollen clothes for gerbils, mice and other rodents (as you do).
She then promotes them on social media and sells them at Shepherd’s Bush market!
Shepherd’s Bush is where she first meets her future Prince Charming (Damien James).
A bloke who is socially awkward and suffers from constantly being talked about in the press.
We find out later on that his faithful butler Minty (played by Jodie Jacobs, who also plays the fairy godmother) is the one feeding stories to the newspapers. Sound familiar?
My favourite actor 'hands down' was Cinderella’s step-mum - Lady Jelly Bottom, played by Emmanuel.
Despite her name, Lady Jelly Bottom has a very firm backside which she tested out on a poor unsuspecting member of the audience. It was laugh-out-loud funny and throughout the panto, there were more moments where the comedy had me crying with laughter.
Another one of those moments was when Jerome Lincoln, who played an old vicar, (among a host of other characters) shuffled off the stage painfully slowly with a Zimmer frame in the middle of dialogue between Cinderella and Prince Charming.
The vicar completely upstaged the couple. And all I could do was fixate on this old man struggling to get off the stage and how he was slowly dropping closer and closer to the floor with every step. I was convinced he was going to collapse on stage right there and then!
There were so many funny moments with all the characters but one thing that I thought the writer/director/ actors did well was incorporate moments that looked like mistakes into the scenes.
There was one point where part of the stage set fell down, revealing a half-dressed Lady Jelly Bottom with one of the behind-the-scenes crew looking shocked…. like we interrupted them or something. For a split second, I was not completely sure if what I was seeing was scripted or a mistake and it was those scenes that kept me entertained.
Lady Jelly Bottom was quite exquisite - in her personality, her dress sense, and her ruthlessness. She was over dramatic and loud – all the things that I imagined the classic step mum to be. But who knew she was skilled in making glass slippers - something that came in handy later on in the performance.
And what I loved about this version of the Cinderella's step-mum was her silliness. She would be as childish as her two daughters at times – making silly noises and pulling faces.
In the end, however, she showed her humanity and ended the show being much kinder to Cinderella and even apologising.
While Emmanuel was my favourite actor, Jodie, who played the fairy godmother and Minty, was my favourite singer. She opened the show with a powerful performance and returned near the end with another belter….
Which reminds me….. the songs performed at the show were brilliant. Although they were sung in panto style, they were essentially pop songs. Think Bridgerton and the pop songs they perform in olde English style ….and you’ll get what I mean.
And this theme of injecting contemporary references into this classic fairytale ran throughout the pantomime. There’d be references to the cost-of-living crisis, TfL and the unreliability of transport in London, and more.
The excitement was electric
This show definitely brought out my inner child. I was mesmerised at how a little bit of glitter transformed Cinderella's normal clothes into her ballgown in seconds.
I think I've worked it out but it was brilliant to hear the gasps from the audience.
I can say that I was invested in every aspect of the performance and I was not alone. We (the audience) were clapping our hands, stomping our feet and in true panto style, booing, and hissing at the baddies.
We were calling out the obligatory classics: ‘Oh no you didn’t’ and ‘he’s behind you’! when a random ghost character started dragging the actors off the stage one by one.
When the: 'he's behind you' warnings were being ignored by the cast, one girl in the birthday party group took it upon herself to walk over to the edge of the stage and wag her finger disapprovingly at the ghost.
It was so cute to watch how invested she was in the performance and just shows you how potent storytelling done correctly can be.
Bravo to cast and crew - it was well worth the trip!
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Love a good theatre performance?
Check out our reviews from the following plays staged at Lyric Hammersmith Theatre: