Written By: Mark Armstrong
Date: December 14 2015
Location: Epstein Theatre, Liverpool, England
It’s Christmas time, which means that it’s panto season! (“Oh, no it isn’t! Oh, yes it is!”)
The Epstein Theatre served up a fun and at times unpredictable night of yuletide entertainment with its incarnation of Cinderella, the story of a girl who finds her true love in the form of Prince Charming, but is denied the opportunity to be with him by her two ugly sisters and her evil mother. However, with the assistance of some friends (including a Fairy Godmother, played by Beryl Marsden), Cinders finds her way to Prince Charming’s Ball (which he holds solely to try and meet Cinderella again), but a midnight exit and a forgotten shoe lead to the show’s big question mark: can Prince Charming locate Cinderella, and will they be married and live happily ever after?
The part of Cinderella was played very convincingly by Alison Crawford, with the show’s biggest name being Calum Best, who played Prince Charming. The audience (which included some famous faces) were largely there to see Calum, or at least the adults were since this is a performance aimed at children. Also of note was Lewis Pryor as Buttons, Cinderella’s friend and a general errand boy for Cinderella’s evil mother, who played his part very well, and even showcased some fancy dance moves!
As is often the case with the seasonal pantomimes at the Epstein, the biggest and the most laughs came from Michael Chapman and Tom Burroughs, who played the Ugly Sisters. Although their characters are inherently evil, their use of scouse slang and suggestive dialogue, their daft costumes, and their humorous interactions with certain cast members meant that it was impossible not to giggle during their scenes. In particular, Chapman (a regular for Epstein pantos, usually in a role similar to this, who doubled as director) raised plenty of laughs during his audience participation segment towards the end, partly due to the unpredictable nature of the young children who came on stage to win some chocolate goodies, and partly due to his abrupt yet hilarious way of dealing with said kids. The use of two white ponies in a scene just before the break and some occasional pyrotechnics added to the special, Christmassy feeling of this production.
The show started 15 minutes late and had a very long intermission, which had an effect on one’s enjoyment of the show, as many were checking their watches and several left early due to the late finishing time (bearing in mind the number of youngsters in attendance). Regular attendees to Epstein pantos will also be unsurprised by the structure of the plot and the resolution in the last few scenes, although in a pantomime spectators are rarely there to analyse the storyline. That being said, without providing spoilers, I was surprised that one long-running plotline wasn’t resolved at all, and another apparently significant story development had a quick and confusing resolution.
Otherwise, this was a very enjoyable night of pantomime which helped to get one in the Christmas spirit. There were plenty of jokes to satisfy both adults and children, making this a recommended night for families to attend over the Christmas season. I had a good time, and my two young nieces who attended the show with me had a great time. In that respect, Cinderella should be on your Christmas list of shows to see over the Xmas break.
Overall Rating: 9/10 – Outstanding