Cinderella’s pumpkin coach is exchanged for a cucumber gondola in The Theatre Chipping Norton’s 40th Christmas pantomime, which whisks the characters away to Venice for a fresh take on a fairytale classic.
Richard Croughan (Tutti), Lizzie Franks (Cinderella) and Shaun Hennessy (Frutti) in Cinderella at the Theatre Chipping Norton Photo: Geraint Lewis
Director John Terry inspires strong performances from both the central cast and an ensemble of local schoolchildren, who altogether wring plenty of laughs from Ben Crocker’s witty script. Richard Croughan and Shaun Hennessy are delightfully gruesome as Tutti and Frutti, wielding urinating puppy water pistols and posturing on chairs like Christine Keeler. The returning Matt Pinches also impresses as Buttons, rousing the audience as a boisterous gondola race commentator and a would-be Casanova.
The songs are well-sung and entertainingly choreographed, with sword fights, breakfast operettas and beauty-tip raps bringing variety. The design team also deserve praise - from the ‘mummy bell’ that summons Karen Davies’ deliciously wicked Baronessa, to Prince Charming’s Obama-like propaganda posters, Jo Hotchkiss’ props are a source of amusement in themselves. Costume designer Nell Hudson also has fun with the Venetian theme, balancing humour and glamour with her animal headdresses and extravagant gowns.
A mixture of likable performances and new ideas make Cinderella energetic, inventive fun. This year’s pantomime is a triumphant production for a significant anniversary.