A couple of weeks ago, me, mummy and daddy were invited to experience the magical performance of Cinderella offered by the crew, cast and friends of the Queens Theatre in Hornchurch, Essex. Mummy was initially a little nervous that I might be a little young for the excitement of a full length Pantomime, but we talked about it lots and she told me what to expect. I was very excited! We read my Cinderella story book cover to cover several times over. I couldn't wait to see the whole story on the big stage!
The evening of the panto finally arrived. A very cold evening in December 2011, and we wrapped up warm, packed a small bag with some essentials (including my pyjamas! It was going to be a late night!!) and we made our way to the theatre. When we arrived, about 40 minutes before the performance was due to begin, and the foyer was very crowded. Groups of excited children filled the Front of House, all clutching their programmes waiting for the action to start. Classes of school children, Brownie Packs, Girl Guides, Youth Groups and many more congregated, chatting and laughing, and mummy & daddy realised I was the youngest there by around 5 years! This didn't bother me in the slightest, however, and it wasn't long before I was off exploring the area. One of the first things we all noticed was how attractively festive the whole foyer looked. A grand Christmas Tree stood near the doors, greeting all visitors with its pretty lights and carefully placed decorations. It all looked really special!
We were greeted at the Press Table and everyone there was really lovely and welcoming, inviting us back for a chat during the show interval. We decided to make our way to our seats earlier rather than later to avoid the rush, and were really happy to see that our seats were just four rows from the front. A very friendly man met us at the doors and showed us to our seats. He immediately offered me a booster seat so that I could see from my very own chair. However, when he returned, he was holding two! They worked perfectly. I could sit comfortably in my own seat and wouldn't miss any of the action on stage.
|Waiting for the show to begin - grateful for my Booster Seats!!|
Another man then came in and warned mummy and daddy about some activity that was due to happen right behind our seats, so that it didn't come as too much of a shock to me! So far, we were receiving some of the very best service we had ever experienced!
Gradually, the auditorium filled up with children and families, and everyone seemed to find their seats easily and without fuss due to the number of friendly, helpful theatre staff that were on duty, and ready to help anyone that was unsure of where to go. A trolley stocked with drinks and snacks was positioned with an attendant a little inside the entrance and there was always an usher nearby.
The show began, and I was captivated immediately. Throughout the first half, I only took my eyes away from the stage when the action poured into the auditorium, which we were always very close to as we were sitting at the end of the row. The lights were bright, the stage was sparkling and the costumes were simply wonderful! We were introduced to each character in a way that even captivated little me! While I laughed at the crazy antics of Cinderella's best friend Buttons, mummy and daddy chuckled at the humour that was traditionally added for the more adult spectator, but we were all instantly drawn into the delightful friendship between Cinders (played by Natasha Moore) and Buttons (played by Mark Stanford) and into the dazzling way in which it was portrayed!
|Cinderella (Natasha Moore) and Buttons (Mark Stanford)|
Photography by Nobby Clark
Whilst the audience were touched by the affection between these characters, we were also absorbed by the mischief of the Ugly Sisters, Asphyxia (played by Simon Jessop) and Euthanasia (played by Tom Jude) and intrigued by the fantasies and bizarre ideas put to us by Cinderella's bumbling father, Baron Hardup (played by Stuart Organ).
|L-R Baron Hardup (Stuart Organ), The Ugly Sisters, Euthanasia (Tom Jude) and Asphyxia (Simon Jessop) and Buttons (Mark Stanford) Photography by Nobby Clark|
Sections of the show were narrated by a mysterious old woman at the side of the stage. The unidentified (at first!) character told the story in the most engaging way. She charmed the audience and made me want to hear more!
Gradually, we were drawn into the unfolding love story, and that of joy, and of a love that was so nearly lost before it was properly discovered! A story of Rags to Riches as Cinderella meets and falls for Prince Charming, played by Niall Costigan. Prince Charming and his loyal sidekick, Dandini (played by Callum Hughes) embark on their search for Cinderella, and take us on their quest which is full of heart warming laughter and plenty of audience participation! With the meddling of the Ugly Sisters, and the helping hand and the bedazzling magic of the Fairy Godmother (played by Karen Fisher-Pollard), the clumsy ignorance of Baron Hardup and the good intentions of Buttons, and the determination of the dedicated Dandini and the slightly love driven Prince Charming ... will Cinderella ever make it to the Ball ...? I'll leave that for you to find out for yourselves!
|Cinderella in her 'Pumpkin' Carriage!Photography by Nobby Clark|
|Does the slipper fit ...?|
Photography by Nobby Clark
The whole cast were just fantastic! The Ugly Sisters made me a bit nervous at the start, but this added to the appeal!
|The Ugly Sisters and Prince Charming|
The costume and set designs were fascinating!!
Photography by Nobby Clark
The whole evening, for me, was an experience I will keep with me for a very long time. Mummy and daddy couldn't believe that I managed to sit still, in my own chair, for the best part of 2 hours! However, I think it was quite easy. After all, if I had moved, I might have missed something! I would just like to say a great big thank you to every single person that contributed to making my first ever Pantomime experience so very very special. I will be back next year - that's for sure!!
Here is what The Queens Theatre promises in its wonderful production of Cinderella!
Wishes come true in fun-packed family panto
The Queen’s Theatre’s award-winning resident actor-musician company cut to the chase… is thrilled to present the enchanting Christmas pantomime Cinderella, from 3 December – 14 January.
From pumpkin carriages to lost crystal slippers, there’ll be magic, mayhem and comedy capers in this festive feast, written and directed by Queen’s Artistic Director, Bob Carlton, and featuring a sparkling original score of melodies by Carol Sloman.
Boys and girls of all ages will join kind Cinderella on an exciting adventure from rags to riches as The Fairy Godmother transforms her into a dazzling beauty fit for a Prince. There’s no more scrubbing for Cinders – she’s off to the Ball and everyone’s invited!
The whole family can cheer, boo and laugh at all their favourite panto characters - the riotously wicked Ugly Sisters, stupendously silly Buttons, dashing Prince Charming, thigh-slapping Dandini and bumbling Baron Hardup. An adorable, super-talented Young Company of 24 local school children add to the magic.
This fun-packed tale is overflowing with catchy songs, spectacular sets, colourful costumes, side-splitting slapstick and loads of audience participation! There’ll be plenty of giggles for grown-ups too – with gags poking fun at the coalition and reality telly!
The Queen’s Theatre has been producing pantomimes for nearly 60 years, so families can all look forward to enjoying top-quality, traditional entertainment this Christmas.
Cinderella stars cut to the chase… company members Natasha Moore as Cinderella, Niall Costigan as Prince Charming, Simon Jessop and Tom Jude as the Ugly Sisters, Karen Fisher-Pollard as Fairy Godmother, Mark Stanford as Buttons, Stuart Organ as Baron Hardup, Callum Hughes as Dandini, with musicians Robert Maloney, Carol Sloman and Al Twist.
This production is written and directed by Queen’s Theatre Artistic DirectorBob Carlton, with set and costume design by Mark Walters, musical direction byCarol Sloman, choreography by Donna Berlin, lighting design by Mark Dymock, sound design by Nik Dudley, with Andy Smart as associate sound designer and Hannah Welch as assistant choreographer.